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B1G All-Decade Grades: Michigan State

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Another edition of our team-by-team grading overview of the Big Ten over the past decade takes us to East Lansing.

Dan Sanger

While 2020 has come out the gates in relatively crummy fashion, the decade leading up to it were some of the Big Ten’s best. Huge TV deals, and overall success highlighted the 10 year span in the conference.

In an attempt to reflect upon the good times — the period of time from 2010 to 2019 — we at B5Q have set out to grade each football and basketball program over that time span.

Next, we take a deep dive into the Michigan State Spartans.

Ohio State v Michigan State
Le’Veon Bell was a workhorse for MSU in the early 2010s.
Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Football grade: B

Michigan State had it’s longest string of consistently great seasons from 2010 to 2015, winning 11 games or more each season except in 2012. Those magical years for Michigan State resulted in four bowl wins, one of which was in the Rose Bowl, and a berth in the first ever College Football Playoff under the guidance of Mark Dantonio.

Over the course of the 2010s, the Spartans were a strong defensive team that was disciplined, and also had great quarterback play for the better part of the time with Kirk Cousins, Connor Cook, and the early stages of Brian Lewerke’s career. Michigan State also sent 27 players into the NFL Draft, with major contributors such as Le’Veon Bell, Jack Conklin and more succeeding in the league.

That sounds pretty great right!

Underlying this all though was multiple off the field scandals that left the program reeling these past few seasons amid NCAA Violation accusations, and ultimately pushed Mark Dantonio out the door. In fact, only seven players from Michigan State’s “Dream Team” of 2016 recruits — of which there was originally 20 — made it to their senior year on campus due to off the field issues or deciding to transfer.

All in all, the Spartan football team had a #nice 69.69% winning percentage over the course of the past decade, with some major highs, but also some deeply horrific lows.

In the end, I was unable to shake the graphic nature in which Michigan State handled things off the field during the past 10 seasons, and therefore was unwilling to go above a B. Add in the fact that they are under investigation currently by the NCAA, with a new head football coach in Mel Tucker, and things are not all sunshine and rainbows moving forward in East Lansing. Tucker and the football team are in a precarious situation currently that is directly related to the way things transpired over the course of the previous 10 seasons.

Basketball grade: A-

The Michigan State basketball team has been routinely one of the best teams in the country since the late 1970s under the direction of only two head coaches, Jud Heathcote and Tom Izzo, during that time.

Over the past 10 years, the Spartans have claimed the regular season Big Ten title five times, and also won the Big Ten Tournament four times. Those are some impressive habits, especially when you consider that Tom Izzo also led them to the Final Four twice during that span.

Add in five NBA first round picks, and the most recent decade was overall a success for Michigan State.

While there have been some off the court trouble recently across the athletic department, which trickled into the basketball team as well, the team was able to mask that to the tune of a 73.5% winning percentage on their way to the NCAA Tournament each season.

The reason though for the minus, instead of an absolute A for the Spartans rests solely on postseason success in my eyes. The two Final Four appearances are great, but for a team that recruits at such a high level, there should be more. Michigan State fans would likely not be satisfied with the past 10 years of production, when you consider some of the high seeds that the team has entered tournament play with.

A perfect example is the 2017-2018 season where Michigan State came into the tournament with only four losses all season long, and had claimed the regular season conference title. Playing their first two rounds of games in Detroit, the Spartans lost to an 11-seed Syracuse team that was one of the last teams into the field.

Given the talent output and overall success, Michigan State has been one of the most consistent basketball teams in the entire B1G over the latest decade of action. At a Blue Blood school that has National Championship aspirations year in and year out though, no title game appearances in the past 10 seasons has to gnaw at Tom Izzo.

Poll

Michigan State football grade for the last decade

This poll is closed

  • 15%
    A
    (51 votes)
  • 61%
    B
    (208 votes)
  • 19%
    C
    (65 votes)
  • 2%
    D
    (7 votes)
  • 2%
    F
    (9 votes)
340 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Michigan State basketball grade for the last decade

This poll is closed

  • 87%
    A
    (302 votes)
  • 10%
    B
    (38 votes)
  • 0%
    C
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    D
    (2 votes)
  • 0%
    F
    (3 votes)
346 votes total Vote Now