This past season was supposed a rebuilding year for the Michigan State Spartans after Gary Harris and Adreian Payne left for the NBA and four-year starting point guard Keith Appling graduated. Instead, Tom Izzo's group peaked at the perfect time, upsetting No. 2 Virginia in the NCAA Tournament on the way to a surprising run to the Final Four as a No. 7 seed. Now it looks like 2015 is only getting better for Izzo -- the program currently has the second-best recruiting class in the country behind only John Calipari's Kentucky, according to ESPN.
Michigan State secured the services of McDonald's All American big man Caleb Swanigan on Friday to give Izzo's team a major interior presence next season. Swanigan is a 6'8, 275-pound center out of Fort Wayne, Ind. who chose the Spartans over Duke and California.
Swanigan joins a recruiting class that already had two other top-100 prospects: McDonald's All-American power forward Deyonta Davis and shooting guard Matt McQuaid. Despite getting four top-100 recruits in 2012 -- including current NBA player Harris -- Izzo isn't as well-known for his recruiting as some of his contemporaries. This haul could change that.
"I'm proud of the success we've enjoyed and the culture we've established here," Izzo told Drew Sharp before the East regional semifinals. "But I don't think that means you can ignore what's a big part of the game now, getting that big-name freshman. Would I love to have (Duke's Jahlil Okafor) right now? You kidding? What's most important is that you get the right fit for what you want your program to be about."
The Spartans are not getting as big a name as Okafor, but the infusion of highly-touted talent they are receiving is impressive nonetheless. Swanigan and Davis will provide the Spartans with much-needed size inside while McQuaid should help improve an offense that ranked 45th in the country with his sweet outside shooting.
The Spartans graduated three players -- including leading scorer Travis Trice and leading rebounder Branden Dawson -- but should have star guard Denzel Valentine and Bryn Forbes back next season, giving them a nice mixture of experience and young blood.
Izzo's achievements on the court have been impossible to ignore -- he's been great at developing players that were not highly rated coming out of high school and has led his team to the Final Four seven times in 20 years, including seven Sweet 16 appearances in eight years.
His program, however, has not been able to boast great recruiting success recently, landing only one top-100 player in the past two years combined and losing recruiting battles more often than not. With this class the Spartans are reversing that trend, which could make them even more dangerous in the future.