ROSEMONT, Ill. (AP) — Given how good Michigan State was last year and the core players returning, coach Tom Izzo can envision big things for his team.
Is it the best in the Big Ten, though? He's not sure.
Michigan State was a unanimous pick to win the conference, and guard Gary Harris was selected Preseason Player of the Year, making it a Spartans sweep in a vote by conference media.
With four starters back from a team that went 27-9 and advanced to the Sweet 16, expectations are once again soaring. The Spartans beat out NCAA runner-up Michigan, with Ohio State picked third.
"I think we deserve to be up there," Izzo said at the conference's media day on Thursday. "I'm not sure we deserve to be where we are. I'm not sure anybody does at this stage in time because of the parity that still is in college basketball. We've got a good team. We've got a veteran team."
Leading the way for Michigan State is Harris, who averaged 12.9 points and shot over 41 percent on 3-pointers last season while taking Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors. Izzo said he could be one of the best guards he's coached with his ability to shoot and defend, not to mention his humility.
"I don't see the celebrity side of it bothering him as long as he stays healthy, which he's had no issues at all," Izzo said. "This kid has gotten better and better and I think will get better and be one of the all-time great guards at Michigan State."
It's high praise, given some of the guards that have played at Michigan State. From Magic Johnson to Mateen Cleaves and Jason Richardson, the list is impressive.
"I don't feel like I'm anywhere compared to some of the great guards that we've had at this school," Harris said. "For Coach to mention that is just an honor in itself, but I still have a long ways to go in my opinion."