Tom Izzo and the Michigan State Spartans are likely to begin the 2019-20 season ranked No. 1 in college basketball, a program with a lot of returning talent in a sport in which "a lot of returning talent" has become an increasingly rare circumstance. All-American point guard and Wooden Award candidate Cassius Winston is back in East Lansing after leading MSU to the eighth Final Four of the Izzo era in April, and the team has a realistic chance to win the program's first national championship in exactly 20 years (2000).
I sat down with Izzo to talk about the construction of this year's title hopefuls and the difficulty of keeping a roster and a program intact amid NBA and transfer decisions.
Cassius Winston and Xavier Tillman decided to return to the team this year, and Nick Ward opted to leave. How much "recruiting" goes into getting players with professional opportunities to stay? Is the message dependent on the player's situation?
It's never a cookie-cutter message from me. With Miles Bridges and Gary Harris, they decided to stay [for their sophomore seasons]. [Jaren] Jackson wanted to stay -- he went too far up on the [NBA draft] ladder, but his parents wanted him to stay. Then I had a kid, Deyonta Davis, who left early, and it was semi-disastrous for him. [Davis was selected in the second round of the 2016 NBA draft and has started just six NBA games in three seasons.]