ROSEMONT, Ill. - Tom Izzo left the podium after about seven minutes Wednesday morning, and Fran McCaffery strode up a few seconds later.
Iowa's coach summed up what the rest of the Big Ten thinks about Michigan State basketball this season.
"Got a lot of new faces," McCaffery said of his own team, "and I think that's the challenge, especially going into a season where Michigan State is the clear favorite."
Though there is no official preseason poll conducted by the conference or its coaches, the Spartans are the preseason favorite according to Big Ten writers in the USA Today Network and an independent media poll conducted by The Athletic as the preseason favorite.
MSU is coming off a Final Four appearance, its eighth under Izzo, with the returning Big Ten player of the year in Cassius Winston and regular-season and postseason tournament titles in 2019. Winston also was named the unanimous preseason player of the year in the conference Wednesday.
Yet Izzo echoed what he told reporters last week as he prepares to enter his 25th season.
"I've got a good team that I like," Izzo said, "with still a lot of question marks."
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One of the big ones is where Joshua Langford is health-wise coming off season-ending foot surgery in February. The senior has been back practicing "just about every day" and has been working in live drills and scrimmages for two-plus weeks, and Izzo said last week his veteran shooting guard might not be back to pre-injury form until December or January.
Langford averaged 15 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 28.6 minutes over his 20 games, shooting 44.3% overall and 40.3% from 3-point range.
"What I mean by question mark is he was out seven to seven-and-a-half months with the little bone in his foot, and just because it doesn't get as much blood. And we were a little extra cautious on him because we think he's very valuable," Izzo said. "He was playing so good for us until he got hurt. And if you look at NBA people or even college people and talk about how long is the actual recovery once you start playing, sometimes it's half the time.
"Well, half the time with our schedule early, there's going to be some question marks."
Izzo reiterated that finding a forward is another unknown going into the season. That's where Kenny Goins emerged last season as a senior, and replacing the lost production of him, guard Matt McQuaid and forward Nick Ward remains a concern.
"And yet with Winston, (Aaron) Henry, and Xavier Tillman, we have three guys that played awfully well at the end of the year," Izzo said. "And hopefully they've grown some now."
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