Looking at how and why our perception of MSU’s depth has changed throughout this season

The question was almost better than Tom Izzo’s answer, because it was a reminder of how our perception of this Michigan State basketball team has changed in the last three months.

Credit goes to my former colleague at Booth Newspapers, Steve Grinczel, now working for MSU, for bringing this up.

“You had a vision of this team on media day,” Grinczel began, addressing Izzo. “How do you reconcile this reality compared to that vision when you worried that your bench was too long?”

Izzo answered with a self-deprecating remark, “Shows you how dumb I am, huh?” But then gave a fairly detailed response about a number of players, but didn’t really answer the question exactly.

In fairness, it’s a hard question to answer without being rude about a couple of players, or without a bit more examination.

Minus Brandan Kearney (who transferred to Arizona State after Christmas), this is the same roster that Izzo thought he had at media day in October. It’s the same roster as when assistant Mike Garland told me this was as deep a crew of athletes as they’d had since the 2000-2001 team.

Now, it doesn’t look deep enough.

What’s happened is that Russell Byrd and Matt Costello haven’t been as ready as advertised. And subtract Kearney and add injuries to Gary Harris and Travis Trice (who are both injured again), and suddenly that once perceived strong 11-man rotation is down to seven or eight players (depending who you view Alex Gauna) who Izzo can rely on.

And that’s when healthy, which the Spartans are not right now.

If you add Kearney to the mix and Costello plays as a freshman as he did over the summer against Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix in the Lansing pro-am, and Byrd was shooting and playing with confidence, this would look like a much deeper team.

But I also think depth is relative. And the perceived lack of depth has something to do with the further emergence of several difference-making athletes, such as Keith Appling, Payne and Branden Dawson, and the addition of Harris.

The depth feels less when the talent of the starters is where it is for MSU. That much is a good thing for the Spartans. But there’s going to be a drop-off.

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20 Responses to Looking at how and why our perception of MSU’s depth has changed throughout this season

  1. avatar MSUDersh says:

    It’s incredible how the depth disappeared, but also the team first, defensive minded play is exceptional right now.

  2. avatar 79 Spartan says:

    Perceptions can be deceiving. Actions bring more focus to perceptions. Consistency brings more clarity to actions. Explicit actions provides greater perception and affords a more, but not necessarily complete understanding. When one does not have completeness, one can only inductively interpret based on perceptions, which in this case are incomplete and therefore may prove to be false.

    Ergo, quit speculating.

    Players can prove themselves each and every time they have the chance: actual results versus potential results. One has to bring it every single time and not take anything for granted. Respect yourself, respect your opponent, respect the game and be focused on every single task at hand. If you do that as a competitor, you will more often than not realize your potential.

    In the immortal words of Coach John Wooden, “Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”

  3. avatar Jeffrey Lubeck says:


    Tom Izzo has never had a shorter rotation in his tenure. Tom Izzo has never had a more versatile group than the starting seven on this team in his tenure. Five guys on this team have on more than one occasion this season taken over and won a game – single highhandedly.

    Three years ago, would Tom Izzo, let alone anyone else, have projected Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix would play all 20 minutes of a 2nd half against Illinois that included a 14-0 blitzing of the Illini to start the stanza and secure the W?

    Three years ago would Tom Izzo, let alone anyone else, have projected they would be describing a (18-4 7-2 B1G) MSU as a team that has yet really hit on all cylinders in any one game?

    In reviewing the 2nd half of the B1G season for all 12 teams in the conference, I believe MSU has arguably the most variability of result (i.e., 15-3 to 12-6).

    If the Gulos from Ann Arbor town win each of their next three games – they control their destiny.

    The Hoosier’s are about to experience a nasty life on the road in the B1G that is replete with unfavorable “home” calls.

    The Acorns and Wiscy can end up being anything from spoilers to Co-Champs – as always seems to the case.

    I say if the Spartans stay healthy (a huge conditional clause) they sneak away with the Title.

    Do you have the fortitude to go out on a limb and make a projection? What say you Mr. Couch?

    Oh and by the way, consider yourself lucky; you are not covering Grinnell College and the details about a player’s rehab program before moving on to the Chamber of Commerce luncheon – you are covering the B1G in its prime – seize the moment and write in a manner so as to demonstrate you are worthy.

    Here are my projections:


    • avatar A very anti Couch poster says:

      Nice piece.

      you could have added that putting the LSJ and it’s team of reporters under the same scrutiny, role players Brian and Chris are doing their job with fire, Joe went to the sideline for a short while, but when the conference honchos saw that the new guy they brought in wasn’t playing up to the competition or presumably his potential, they brought Joe back to save the season and they are not sure if Couch is going to develop in the off-season enough to go it on his own next fall. Further updates available on Spartan Access.

    • avatar Spartan 81 says:

      Agree with 13-15 wins, short but versatile rotation gives a wide fluctuation margin. Actually he covered the Freeport Pretzels but agree with your Carpe Diem advise.

    • avatar headeast says:

      Jeffery great article…loved the link you posted…looks like a good read…sent you an e-mail…

      • avatar Spartan 81 says:

        If Jeff purchases LSJ he will try to coach up Couch into another Joe Falls.

        • avatar A very anti Couch poster says:

          Never happen, the latter anyway. Joe Falls could at least write the English language correctly. AND he wasn’t stuck with a MAC point of view on the rest of College Sports.

    • avatar Spartan 81 says:


      Could you break down the comparison in measurables between Graham Couch and Joe Falls,
      Comparable upsides? How about the intangibles?

    • avatar Graham Couch says:

      Thanks for the link, Jeffery. A few weeks ago, I saw MSU finishing no better than 12-6. But I can see 13-5 or 14-4, if Gary Harris gets and stays healthy. Finishing with NW and Wisconsin at home is a good deal for MSU.

      • avatar Jeffrey Lubeck says:


        Thanks for your thoughts and making a prediction. I would agree that your 13-5 or 14-4 are probably more realistic than my highest upside “Bullish on the Spartans” 15-3. However both of us have provided the appropriate amounts of qualifiers and caveats to our predictions.

        Of the top four teams in the B1G Standings (at current) I think the margin for error is probably the smallest for the Spartans.

  4. avatar Spartan 81 says:

    Personally I think it is hard to compare columnists’ from different eras. Joe Falls was more
    Of a drop back sportswriter methodically fact checking his secondary and tertiary sources
    Often calling audibles at Lindys AC. Graham is more of a read option guy disappearing for long periods of time, with unpredictable quick bursts of twitter feeds. Joe often spread his bar tabs extending the Detroit News accounting dept and giving Lubecks father an extra expense account to defend.

    • avatar Graham Couch says:

      Well played

    • avatar Jeffrey Lubeck says:

      At the annual Newspaper Writer’s Combine, Expense Account Padding (EAP) and Expense Description Obfuscation (EDO) were key indicators towards measuring the future potential of a writer.

      As a semi related side note I think Graham could help us confirm there is no correlation between Joe R. cancelling the baby room addition and the Spartans not attending a BCS bowl.

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