The Ohio State Buckeyes women’s basketball team faced the Michigan State Spartans three times last year, including in postseason play. Head coach Kevin McGuff’s Buckeyes side bested them all three times on the court.
Even so, Michigan State could be a team that surprises people this season. Could they make a run like Ohio State did last year, when they earned a share of the Big Ten conference title?
To find out the answer to that question and more, Land-Grant Holy Land worked with The Only Colors, the Michigan State site on SBNation. Kevin Knight covers the Spartans and shared more about a potential surprise year, who steps up with big names graduating and more.
Land-Grant Holy Land: Even with Michigan State’s difficult 2021-22 season, it didn’t detract transfers or freshmen from joining the team. There are some impressive names in the group joining Sparty this year. Who of the group can make an immediate impact?
The Only Colors: Gabby Elliott is a huge grab out of the transfer portal. The former Clemson guard is coming home to Michigan and will play with former teammate in guard DeeDee Hagemann. Elliott earned ACC All-Freshman team honors after arriving at Clemson as the No. 42 ranked recruit in her class. She averaged 12.2 points per game while shooting 31.3 percent from three-point range during her first year and a half in Clemson.
Graduate guards Stephanie Visscher (Stephen F. Austin) and Kamaria McDaniel (Baylor) also both add a lot of skill in the backcourt and should see minutes as well.
With an emphasis on guards, Abby Kimbell may see some limited minutes as well. The true freshman from West Catholic in Grand Rapids arrives on campus as an ESPN Top-100 recruit.
LGHL: Michigan State lost guard Nia Clouden and forward Tamara Farquhar to their finished NCAA careers. Can guard Matilda Ekh and forward Taiyier Parks turn into the next iteration of those two key role-players for the Spartans?
TOC: Matilda Ekh made a name for herself in East Lansing last season with Honorable Mention All-Big Ten and All-Freshman team honors. With 11.8 ppg and 39.4% shooting from three-point range, she will most definitely be relied upon to step up the volume this season.
As for Taiyier Parks, she took a step backwards in scoring last season from her sophomore year while upping her rebounds from 6.0 to 6.5 per game. With the departure of Tamara Farquhar, she will likely see more direct offensive action this season like when injuries derailed the team her sophomore season.
It will be especially difficult to replace the production of Clouden, but with the addition of players like Elliott, continued growth from sophomore point guard Hagemann, and returning budding stars like Ekh, it will more likely be replacement by a collection of talented players as a result.
LGHL: Last season, the Buckeyes played a pretty light non-conference schedule and were able to gel and come on strong in the second half of the season, and win a conference title. Looking through Sparty’s schedule, they don’t have an overly difficult road. Do you think Michigan State could find the same sort of success after giving this younger team time to build chemistry?
TOC: This team’s schedule could not be more of a stark contrast in difficult to the men’s team this season, I won’t sugar coat that. The opponents of Iowa State and North Carolina or Oregon in the Phil Knight Invitational, along with a visit by Georgia Tech will be the only good measuring sticks from the non-conference season. I think you’re getting at the right idea at what this young and transfer heavy team needs, though.
The schedule should allow the rotation to work itself out and be able to get comfortable playing with one another. Ideally, the other added benefit is hopefully it will help this team stay healthy, something Michigan State has never seemed to manage to do over the years of late losing key players to season ending injuries, or most of the season at least.
LGHL: Finally, what are your way-too-early predictions for where Michigan State ends in the final conference standings and how far do they make it in the NCAA Tournament, if they make it?
TOC: Michigan State has plenty of talent this season, but a lot of new faces as well. On top of that, this is a loaded conference this season in the Big Ten. I think Michigan State can be in contention to finish just outside the top-5, or even squeeze into that final fifth spot, if the team stays healthy and figures out how to play together well this season. If that happens, this should definitely be a NCAA team.
Lasting past the second round may be too much to expect with so much youth, though. If the normal slew of injuries pile up, though, it will be another middle of the pack 8th-10th place finish, though, and not NCAA Tournament bid, especially with that weak non-conference.