August 6, 2010

Can Spartans win Big Ten without Allen?

At the College Basketball Roundtable each week, we ask each member of the coverage staff for his opinion about a current topic in the sport. We have two questions this week, one today and one Sunday.

TODAY'S QUESTION: Michigan State announced earlier this week that senior guard Chris Allen won't return to the team. How big a blow is this to the Spartans? Can they win the Big Ten without him?

Michigan State went to the Final Four last season without Kalin Lucas. The Spartans have dealt with injuries and inconsistency from Raymar Morgan and Delvon Roe over the years. Of course, the Spartans don't want to lose a starter, but they've absorbed bigger losses with less time to prepare. Maybe this means Michigan State won't win 30 games. In other seasons, I might say they still would be the favorite to win the Big Ten. But with another elite team at the top of the league (Purdue), maybe that doesn't happen this season. Over the course of the season, Allen's departure could hurt depth, but I still can see Michigan State getting hot at the right time and winning the Big Ten tournament or reaching the Sweet 16 or better.


Losing Allen hurts; he was a senior guard well-versed in how coach Tom Izzo wanted things done. That said, it's obvious he and Izzo didn't always see eye-to-eye, and his departure means one less potential distraction for the Spartans. Sure, Michigan State still can win the Big Ten without Allen. But I thought Purdue was better than Michigan State when the Spartans had Allen, so I certainly think Purdue is better than Michigan State without Allen. But Allen's departure won't hurt the Spartans' NCAA chances one iota.


Losing a high-quality player such as Chris Allen would be a huge blow to most teams. The rising senior averaged 8.2 points per game and shot 39 percent from beyond the arc for Michigan State's Final Four squad last season. He was also the Spartans' best perimeter defender. Somehow, though, I don't think Tom Izzo's team will be all that affected by Allen's dismissal. The Spartans still have one of the top backcourts in the country with the returning trio of Durrell Summers, Kalin Lucas and Korie Lucious. And incoming freshman shooting guard Keith Appling was one of the most heavily recruited players in the country at his position. The Big Ten will be tough with Purdue and Ohio State each boasting what appears to be Final Four-caliber teams. But Michigan State should be right there in the mix for the Big Ten and NCAA titles. Even without Allen.


Michigan State certainly can win the Big Ten without Chris Allen, but that doesn't mean the Spartans actually will get it done. With Allen in the lineup, I considered the Spartans a clear-cut Final Four contender and a team that could open the season in the top three of the national rankings. Without Allen, the Spartans still ought to start the season in the top 15, maybe even the top 10. But that should be enough of a drop to allow Purdue to vault ahead of Michigan State as the preseason Big Ten favorite. Purdue's senior trio of Robbie Hummel, E'Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson figured to make the Boilers a preseason top-five team anyway. Besides, the Spartans have shown the past couple of seasons that they typically do their best work in March. It wouldn't surprise me if they have a few bumps in the Big Ten schedule, settle for second place in the conference, then regroup in the postseason and make a third consecutive run to the Final Four.


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