The night after another five-star big man chose someone other than Michigan State, MSU freshman Marcus Bingham Jr. watched intently from the bench as the Spartans’ throttled Maryland, almost entirely without him.
“I watch the people that are in front of me and look at the spots they’re in and see what they’re doing defensively and offensively,” Bingham said, sitting near his locker at Breslin Center, after MSU’s 69-55 win.
“Say Isaiah would have come here or something like that, I still would have kept working hard so I can get as much playing time as all these other cats.”
Isaiah, of course, is acclaimed high school center Isaiah Stewart, who picked Washington on Sunday night, six weeks after another blue-chipper, Vernon Carey, picked Duke. The Spartans appear out of luck on 5-star giants for next year’s recruiting class. They’ll add a graduate transfer or a less heralded player they decide they really like.
The core of next year’s interior rotation is perhaps already on the roster: Bingham, fellow freshman Thomas Kithier and sophomore Xavier Tillman.
Before this season — before Cassius Winston became a wizard, before the Spartans were so clearly Final Four contenders — I thought this team would be a precursor to next season, when MSU would truly be a national player. I pictured Winston and Joshua Langford as seniors, Tillman as a junior, this year’s intriguing freshman class as sophomores, and maybe a five-star freshman big man joining the mix. That would be MSU’s next chance at a national championship, I reasoned.
Now, it looks like this might be as good a chance as any. Winston is dancing toward All-American status. The performances of the players playing their final seasons at MSU — seniors Matt McQuaid, Kenny Goins, almost certainly junior Nick Ward — have surpassed expectations. A trio I once thought could be replaced with modest development among the underclassmen and perhaps upgraded with Carey or Stewart, now looks like a looming and sizable void.
That’s not a bad thing for the Spartans or their fans, if they can live in the present and enjoy this enjoyable team.