The questionable senior leadership from a year ago won't be present this season if Michigan State Spartans senior Draymond Green has anything to say about it.
A leader? You bet. Is this his team this season? Without a question.
While Kalin Lucas and Durrell Summers failed to live up to their senior potential last season, Green has been a general since his arrived in East Lansing.
Despite the Spartans' 89-69 win over the Blue Devils at the Breslin Center, coach Tom Izzo and Green each had choice words for the team. Spartans followers come to expect as much from Izzo, who hardly censors himself. It is what it is with Izzo.
And that's why he's so well-respected.
Green, however, has been more of a softer-spoken leader, at times, but showed his gruff side when he interviewed with Spartan Mag after the game.
"It wasn't necessarily a meeting," Green said. "I just had a few things that we needed to talk about, a few things that we needed to nip in the bud right now.
"Lack of effort is something that we will not do, will not happen to this team. If you just let that happen, guys get used to that and that's what they become. We will not let this team become like that. Guys will play with a tremendous energy level all year and that's how it's going to stay.
"We had one let-down. If you allow that and say, 'Okay we had one.' Then it turns to two, then it turns to three and then it becomes a problem. So you want to nip it in the bud as soon as it happens.
"The way we rebounded, the way we defended, all of those things. Things that we have done great this year, we didn't do. They got every loose ball. That's what we've been doing. You can't change the things that have been making you successful."
Now, that may have been a bit to digest, but read into it. Green was specific and targeted certain areas, not just the "coach talk" that Lucas and Summers offered about "improving" and "being team players," or whatever else sounded good to satisfy media questions.
No, Green gets to the point. But he's not brash or holier-than-thou. He's a coach, an extension of Izzo. I've written in the past that Green will go down as one of the greatest Spartans leaders—if not ever—in the Izzo Era.
Now, I'm not trying to come across as "see, I know MSU basketball," because if you're reading this, you're probably right up there, too. It doesn't take a four-year degree to understand that Green is cut from a different mold.
Green knows when the Spartans have a quality team. He's been two Final Fours, a national title game, and has seen players come and go. What really quenched my desire to know if the Spartans were indeed the real deal were Green's comments directed toward freshman guard Travis Trice, who erupted for a game- and team-high 20 points in the win over the Blue Devils.
"He (Draymond) told us how this team reminds him of the Final Four teams and the championship teams that have been here, about how we're all together but we just have to eliminate the distractions," Trice told Spartan Mag. "Any kind of distractions, whether it's somebody telling you you should play more, or somebody telling you this should be your team.
"It might not be all that. Something might be happening at home and you need somebody you to talk to. Whatever it is. We just need to stay close together."
This year's team reminds Green of past Final Four teams?! The Big Ten will likely be dominated by Ohio State, with Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana, as well as Michigan State, making pushes for conference titles. The Spartans, who fell in the first round of the tournament last season with Lucas, Summers and Delvon Roe, three great players (two of which didn't deliver in their final year) that are no longer with the team, have the potential to make Green's senior year one to remember.
Korie Lucious' behavior was a distraction last year. A major distraction. The Spartans guards were seemingly learning to adjust without Chris Allen, who transferred amidst a cloud of controversy, and this year, well, this year—it was supposed to be back to the drawing board.
Right? Wrong—at least according to Green. And I'll take his word for it, because he's there day-in, day-out, practicing and going through the Izzo grind.
This team has talent. No doubt. There is enough, like teams from years ago, to make runs toward the Final Four. Continual runs. I like Green's confidence. There is no doubt if the Spartans put it all together at the right time that they will make some noise in the Big Ten and, in all likelihood, in that little dance the NCAA has in March.
But this is Green's last year. And the Spartans must get it together, if not for the team, Izzo, or the school—but for Green, who has played his tail off for four years.
He has the ability to manage the team while Izzo does, well, what Izzo does.
Follow Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81, or, e-mail him Adam.Biggers@Yahoo.com