Which Big Ten Program Needs The Final Four More This Season?

Posted by Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) on March 27th, 2014

We know about the statistic that no Michigan State senior has left East Lansing without making it to the Final Four under Tom Izzo, which makes this weekend extremely crucial for Keith Appling and Adreian Payne. We also know that Bo Ryan hasn’t made an Elite Eight since 2005 and hasn’t had great success in the postseason, so this high-powered Wisconsin offense has a decent chance to make it to the Final Four. Nobody expected Michigan to be here after Mitch McGary’s injury, but we have learned not to doubt the Wolverines’ explosive offense because they could beat anybody on a given night. As we head into the next round of games, let’s try to understand which coach and program really needs the Final Four. Note that this is not a discussion about which coach would be on the “hot seat” if they don’t make the Final Four because Tom Izzo, Bo Ryan and John Beilein’s seat is as cold as it can get based on the credibility they have earned with their respective programs.

Tom Izzo's roster doesn't look great next year and the opportunity to make the Final Four may not come around for a couple more years.

Tom Izzo’s roster doesn’t look great next year and the opportunity to make the Final Four may not come around for a couple more years. (AP)

  • Michigan State: On the outset, an appearance in the Sweet 16 seems to be perfectly enough for Izzo because his program continues to uphold its reputation of being excellent in the postseason. But digging deeper and understanding his roster’s composition over the next two seasons emphasizes the importance of this weekend. Under the assumption that Gary Harris is headed to the NBA draft and considering that two key seniors graduate next year, the Spartans don’t really have a go-to scorer left on the roster. Denzel Valentine and Travis Trice are capable of possibly averaging 12 points per game next season but neither of them have proved that they can take over a game when needed. The freshman class isn’t great either because it doesn’t even rank in the top 30 according to Rivals. Izzo will still find a way to compete for the Big Ten title but he may not have enough horsepower to compete for a Final Four — at least not for another two seasons. This weekend is their chance to make an impact and get ahead before they take a step back at least for another year as they rebuild.
  • Michigan: While Michigan State may take a step back next year, Michigan’s future looks even brighter, considering that McGary will come back. It is unlikely that McGary and Nik Stauskas go pro, but even if they did, there is enough talent left on the roster. Caris LeVert has the versatility to be the best player in the conference and freshmen Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin will only get better. The chances of losing three starters (including Glenn Robinson) to the NBA are very low, so John Beilein’s squad will compete again for the conference title and should definitely make a run at the Final Four again. Their future looks bright, and their season is already considered a success because they weren’t expected to be here without McGary. It doesn’t mean that Stauskas and company will settle for just a Sweet 16 appearance, but the sense of urgency is not as high for them compared to the Spartans.
  • Wisconsin: Similar to the Wolverines, the Badgers should be locked and ready to go next year. Once again, we have to assume that Sam Dekker won’t go pro in this situation. Ben Brust’s experience will be missed, but it is nothing that can’t be replaced with a younger sharpshooter such as Bronson Koenig. Ryan may choose to go even bigger with his starting rotation if Nigel Hayes plays the power forward, leaving Dekker to play around the perimeter which aligns well with his strengths. Frank Kaminsky ought be more confident, especially on the defensive end which should prevent him from getting into foul trouble. More minutes on the floor will lead to more offense and it is very likely that the Badgers will be a preseason top-10 team in a few months. Ryan’s ability to replenish talent has never been in question but another postseason of falling short of the Final Four will still be slightly disappointing. But if they don’t make it to North Texas, there is still hope next year majority of these players will be back.
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