Kansas had barely finished cutting the nets after winning the national championship before ESPN released its Way-Too-Early Top 25 college basketball rankings for the 2022-23 season.
As the name suggests, these are very early projections of where the teams will stand next season, as several players are still making decisions about their future as players.
Unfortunately, Michigan State was not included in ESPN’s first Top 25, but was ranked among the “Next In Line” at No. 30 overall.
Obviously, rankings like these don’t mean much in the grand scheme of things, but it raises eyebrows that the Spartans could be left out of the preseason standings for the second season in a row. In the last 27 years of Tom Izzo’s coaching tenure, Michigan State has only been ranked five times in the preseason.
ESPN has four Big Ten teams currently ranked in their Too-Early Top 25, starting with No. 11 Michigan. The next-highest conference team was No. 17 Illinois, although the article made it clear that Fighting Illini held that the seeding was entirely dependent on Kofi Cockburn choosing to return to Champaign.
No. 21 Indiana and No. 23 Purdue were the other two Big Ten representatives in the rankings, while Ohio State joined MSU in the “Next In Line”. The Buckeyes sit in 27th place.
There are still several unknowns to iron out for Michigan State’s 2022-23 roster, but here’s what we expect:
I’m going to assume that freshman Max Christie will remove his name from the 2022 NBA draft pool once he receives his evaluation, and I expect him to be in a Spartan uniform for his second season.
For now, I’m also going to assume Joey Hauser doesn’t return with his extra year of NCAA eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m also going to assume that Michael Peterson and Jason Whitens aren’t coming back.
With that established, here is Michigan State’s current projected depth chart for 2022-23 heading into the offseason:
- AJ Hoggard (Jr.) – projected starter
- Tyson Walker (Sr.) – 6th man/potential starter
- Tre Holloman (Fr.) – spare key
- Steven Izzo (Sr.) – extra
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- Max Christie (So.) – projected starter
- Jaden Akins (So.) – spare key/potential starter
- Pierre Brooks (So.) – role player
- Keon Coleman (So.) – extra
- Maliq Carr (R-So.) – extra
- Malik Hall (Sr.) – projected incumbent
- Jaxon Kohler (Fr.) – key reserve / role player
- Julius Marble (Sr.) – projected starter
- Mady Sissoko (Jr.) – spare key
Obviously, there will be names added to this depth chart by the start of the regular season. Michigan State has 10 scholarship players listed above, with three scholarships still available.
Izzo has been active in the transfer portal before, and the Spartans have a decent chance of landing West Virginia small forward Jalen Bridges, who is expected to move to East Lansing soon. As you can see above, small forward is a necessary position for MSU.
The center position is another that Izzo and his team will be looking to tackle in the portal. Marble has played a few good minutes as a reserve center this season, and even started a few games, but his best role seems to be as the Spartans’ first big off the bench.
Michigan State’s guard rotation will be interesting to watch in 2022-23. In an ideal situation, I would start Hoggard and bring Walker in from the bench. Hoggard is the better basketball distributor of the two, which would allow Walker to focus more on being a bench scorer for MSU. Incoming freshman Tre Holloman is an intriguing prospect, and is likely to see some ground, despite the deadlock at his position.
Christie, meanwhile, is an obvious starter, although it’s currently unclear whether that would be at fullback or small forward. Again, this depends on how much help Izzo and his team provide from the portal. Fellow sophomore Jaden Akins showed some good things last season, and I expect his game to take a leap this offseason. It’s not impossible to see Akins start at the shooting position and Christie slide down to start at the small forward.
In the frontcourt, Hall is a shoe to start at the forefront in my opinion. He looked like an All-Big Ten player in several games for MSU this season, but we need to see more consistency from him. Could Hall slip and start at small forward to make room in the starting lineup for incoming rookie Jaxon Kohler? It depends on how quickly Kohler adapts to college play and what Michigan State adds to the roster up front this offseason.
We’ll be keeping a close eye on how the Spartans roster changes and evolves as we delve deeper into the offseason.