If it felt like there was a certain inevitability to Michigan State's Final Four run last year, it had more to do with the name on the front of the jerseys than the names on the back of them.
After losing Adreian Payne and Gary Harris the year before, last season's No. 7 seed that upset Virginia and Louisville on the way to Indianapolis was not one of Tom Izzo's most talented teams. What's frightening is Izzo still got the job done, and now he's putting himself in position to potentially have a roster as loaded as any he's put together in East Lansing.
Michigan State received a commitment from Cassius Winston on Friday, a Detroit-bred point guard ranked No. 29 in ESPN's class of 2016 rankings. ESPN has 28 recruits marked as five-star players in 2016, meaning Winston is (in one scouting service's judgment) the best four-star recruit in the class. He's also ranked No. 28 in the class by Rivals and Scout.
Winston is a bulldog of a point guard -- listed (perhaps generously) at 6'1 and 177 pounds, but with an ability to both score and facilitate. He's noted in various scouting reports for being able to score off the dribble and also being a good catch-and-shoot shooter with deep range. In other words, he should fit in just fine with Izzo's proud point guard lineage that goes from Mateen Cleaves to Drew Neitzel to Kalin Lucas to Keith Appling.
Winston is Michigan State's third commit in the 2016 class, joining five-star wing Josh Langford and four-star big man Nick Ward. That means MSU now has the No. 17 (Langford), No. 29 (Winston) and No. 39 (Ward) players in 2016, and Izzo isn't done yet.
Michigan State's biggest target is still out there. Miles Bridges, a dynamic 6'7, 230-pound forward, is deciding between the Spartans, Kentucky and Indiana on Oct. 3. Bridges is a versatile forward who has the look of an NBA lottery pick, and would likely propel Michigan State to a top-two national recruiting class alongside Duke.
Bridges' recruitment has received plenty of attention, in part because of the Izzo vs. Calipari battle. Bridges took his official visit to Michigan State last week during the Spartans' huge home win over Oregon in football, where he hung out with Draymond Green as well as Ward, Winston and Langford:
Bridges is set to visit Kentucky on Oct. 16 for Big Blue Madness, but with an announcement coming on Oct. 3, it would seem like MSU is the favorite. When Draymond has Steph Curry FaceTiming you from the championship locker room, it must be hard to go anywhere other than MSU.
Bridges, ranked as the No. 8 player in 2016, would likely make this the best recruiting class Izzo has ever put together. That's a loaded statement for a man with seven Final Fours on his resume, but it's hard to top four top-40 players.
Considering the magic Izzo has worked with less-heralded recruits in the past, the rest of the country should be terrified now that he's working with so much talent.