Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Thriving On Court and In Recruiting, Michigan State Set to Ascend to No. 1
When the new Associated Press Top 25 poll came out on Monday, Michigan State ascended to the No. 1 spot in the land.
Kansas, North Carolina, Iowa State and Kentucky fill out the top five positions.
Tom Izzo and the Spartans improved to 9-0 on Saturday with a 76-33 win over Binghamton in which National Player of the Year candidate Denzel Valentine had yet another double-double of 13 points and 12 rebounds and Bryn Forbes scored 14 points.
“We all know that where you’re ranked in December doesn’t matter,” Izzo said. “If that happens it’s a feather in your program’s hat. It’s always good to have your team ranked high. We’ve been the hunter for the long time. If you’re ranked one, you are the hunted.”
Kentucky and Maryland, the No. 1 and 2 teams in last week’s poll, both lost this week, the Wildcats at UCLA and the Terps at North Carolina. That set red-hot Sparty up to be No. 1.
“It’s always exciting to be ranked as the best team in college basketball,” Forbes said. “We’re looking forward to championships. That’s what we’re striving for.”
It’s been quite the couple of weeks for the Spartans — on the court and on the recruiting front, too.
On Nov. 27, Izzo won his 500th career game over Boston College at the Wooden Legacy Classic.
This past week, Valentine, a 6-foot-6 senior, ascended to No. 16 in the DraftExpress.com Mock Draft after he was previously off the board.
And on Friday at the Marshall County Hoopfest in Benton, Ky., Josh Jackson, the projected No. 3 pick in 2017, made some comments that have to make Michigan State fans feel good.
A Michigan native, Jackson said it would be “real hard” not to pick Michigan State over Kansas, Arizona, UCLA, Maryland and UNLV.
Michigan State already has the No. 3 recruiting class in 2016 according to Scout.com, and if they were to add Jackson in the late period, they could be really dangerous in 2016-17 after they already appear like a Final Four-type team this year.
“Miles [Bridges] contacts me at least two to three times a week,” Jackson said of the 6-7 Michigan State-bound small forward from Huntington (W.V.) Prep. “I’m strongly considering it. Obviously he’s a great player. They’ve got some other great recruits coming in as well. It’s my hometown so it would be a favorite.”
“They definitely tag team. Cassius Winston as well, I grew up with him and he’s committed there, he calls me sometimes. Nick Ward, he’ll call me sometimes, Josh Langford. I’m friends with all of the 2016 recruits they have coming here. So it’s just Sparty, Sparty all the time.”
Sparty all the time, that about sums things up right now.
Oh, and did we mention the Michigan State football team beat Iowa in the Big Ten championship game Saturday night and is headed to the College Football Playoff against Alabama on New Year’s Eve?
Sparty all the time, indeed.
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.