Published October 12, 2010
EAST LANSING, Mich. – National championship or bust.
A lot of teams might claim that mantra each year, but it's different at Michigan State. The Spartans, after all, have advanced to the Final Four in consecutive years and six times in 12 seasons.
"We'll consider anything less than a national championship a failure," forward Draymond Green said Monday.
Izzo didn't quite go that far.
The coach, who chose to stay in college in June instead of going to coach the Cleveland Cavaliers, did say the program has to cut the nets down in April once more to earn elite status.
"We need another title," said Izzo, who led the Spartans to the 2000 championship.
The Spartans seem to have a shot.
Three of their top four and seven of nine scorers — missing just Raymar Morgan and Chris Allen — are back from last season's Final Four team that won 28 games and repeated as Big Ten champions. Morgan was the second-leading scorer last year as a senior and Allen transferred to Iowa State.
Michigan State's chances of reaching its lofty goals will improve if its banged-up players don't have setbacks during the season.
Kalin Lucas expects his surgically repaired left Achilles' tendon to be healthy enough for him to play in the season-opening game Nov. 12 at home against Eastern Michigan. Durrell Summers, who could've skipped his senior year to enter the draft, was slowed over the summer by a sprained knee. Delvon Roe, coming off surgery on his right knee, is working out without pain for the first time since high school.
Garrick Sherman (foot), Adreian Payne (shoulder), Russell Byrd (foot) and Austin Thornton (back) are also dealing with various ailments.
"The key to our season is going to be the injuries," Izzo said. "Especially early on."
As usual, the Spartans won't be able to ease into the season because Izzo put together one of the tougher schedules in college basketball.
Michigan State will play in the Maui Invitational, where the field includes Kentucky, Washington, Oklahoma, Virginia and Connecticut. The Spartans will play at Duke, against Syracuse in Madison Square Garden and then wrap up the non-conference slate against Texas at home.
"We're still playing more good teams than a lot of people," Izzo said.
The Spartans' first practice is Friday night and they're hoping fans fill the Breslin Center to witness the latest Final Four banner get raised to the rafters.
Lucious will have to watch at least the regular-season opener from the bench. Izzo suspended him after he pleaded guilty last month to misdemeanor reckless driving.
"I made a mistake and have to deal with the consequences," Lucious said. "I'm going to take my punishment because I did the crime. Whatever coach decides, I'll just have to deal with it."