Michigan State fans had a sigh of relief in June after Tom Izzo declined an intriguing offer by longtime friend Dan Gilbert to coach the Cleveland Cavaliers.
On Nov. 6, the Spartans added a year onto Izzo’s contract to make him the coach for the Spartans until 2017.
The Spartans have high hopes coming off a Final Four run last season.
Michigan State is ranked No. 2 in the nation and has a pivotal match against the No. 1-ranked Duke Blue Devils at Cameroon Indoor Stadium on Dec. 1 in the ACC/Big Ten challenge.
Butler dashed the Spartans chances of playing the Blue Devils in the National Championship last season.
“I thought the physical play bothered us – that surprised me,” MSU head coach Tom Izzo told the Associated Press.
That would astound most of the coaches in the Big Ten, because the Spartans have a reputation for being the most physical team in the Big Ten.
The Spartans return five of the seven players with the most minutes in the previous season. The two players lost were Raymar Morgan and Chris Allen.
They also have a total of eight upper-classman on the roster, and they have depth at the point guard position.
Leading scorer Kalin Lucas returned for his senior year. Korie Lucious moved up another level when he took over as starting point guard after Lucas had a season-ending injury in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
The only flaw with Lucious seems to be his off-court problems. Izzo suspended him the first two games because Lucious was charged with reckless driving.
To start the season, Michigan State will play in the Maui Invitational. Its toughest tests will be Kentucky and Uconn.
The Spartans’ first game in the tournament will be Nov. 22 against Chaminade.
“We’ve got a lot of good pieces, but we don’t have all of ‘em together yet,” Izzo told freep.com, “That’s gonna take some time, but there were some very encouraging things.”