Michigan State basketball was picked to finish fourth in the Big Ten this season, but Mady Sissoko’s growth dictates that.
Mady Sissoko has been an anomaly in the post for Michigan State basketball over the past two years.
He’s been lightly-used, oft-confused, and he’s as raw as any big man Tom Izzo has ever had.
So when Julius Marble decided to transfer back home to Texas A&M this offseason and Marcus Bingham Jr. graduated, you can imagine the panic that ensued in the fanbase about the center position.
Sissoko was unproven and he was about to be playing starting minutes.
Sure, he had been in the system for two seasons already and should know the ropes, but he has come along slowly, to say the least. It didn’t look like there was any improvement in his game from his freshman to his sophomore year.
In fact, he played fewer minutes, grabbed fewer rebounds, and averaged more fouls and turnovers per game as a sophomore. Not ideal for a Michigan State big man on the verge of starting.
But this has been a huge offseason for him. This is a “prove it” year for Sissoko as he takes the reins down low and is forced to show why he belongs in the starting group. He’ll be forced to learn on the fly and take his lumps as he’s “thrown into the fire” in 2022-23 — not a term usually used for third-year guys.
At Big Ten media days, however, Izzo hinted at something that should make Michigan State fans hopeful. He hinted at Sissoko growth.
Izzo also pretty much solidified Sissoko as the starting center.
Tom Izzo said Mady Sissoko is "significantly ahead" of the other centers on MSU's roster, particularly due to defense and rebounding. Doesn't sound like much of a question as to who's starting there.
— Kyle Austin (@kylebaustin) October 12, 2022
Defense and rebounding are what’s going to earn Mady minutes. He’s not going to score 20-30 points a night. Heck, he might not even score 8-10 points, but as long as he can stay out of foul trouble, play good defense, and rebound, he’ll play.
And that’s all Michigan State needs.
The biggest concern surrounding Sissoko this offseason has been his comfortability in the post. He’s looked out of place far too often and he needs to feel comfortable in his role. This quote from Izzo alludes to the fact that he’s getting there.
Is he going to be an All-Big Ten center? Probably not, but Michigan State just needs him to be a defender, rebounder, and rim protector. He needs to play with a purpose.
Izzo doesn’t often make statements like this unless a player has improved drastically and that would be a great sign for the Spartans.
Sissoko’s growth is imperative if Michigan State wants to make a Big Ten title run.
And I think we’re about to see him take that next step.