Michigan State basketball is about to tip off its season in a few weeks. What are realistic expectations for this team?
The 2022-23 Michigan State basketball season is still a couple of weeks from tipoff as it’ll open things up with an exhibition game against Grand Valley on Nov. 1, followed by the regular-season opener vs. Northern Arizona on Nov. 7.
But we’re already starting to talk about realistic expectations for the upcoming season.
Michigan State is coming off a disappointing second-round exit and it’s lost Julius Marble, Marcus Bingham Jr., Max Christie, and Gabe Brown. How did Tom Izzo replace all of those departures? With a freshman class consisting of three guys: Jaxon Kohler, Carson Cooper, and Tre Holloman.
Confidence hasn’t exactly been injected into the fanbase by Izzo’s dismissal of the transfer portal this offseason. He has two former transfers in his projected starting five, but he preached culture in his preseason presser and stated that he has to give the guys he recruited a chance.
It makes sense to a point, but he has shown that he’s not afraid to use the portal. Plus, I don’t think Joey Hauser and Tyson Walker are bad for culture. Actually the contrary is true there.
Walker and Hauser opted to return, Malik Hall is back, AJ Hoggard is arguably back as the best point guard in the Big Ten, Mady Sissoko has developed per Izzo, and Jaden Akins and Pierre Brooks both look to improve drastically (as long as Akins can stay healthy). Oh, and the three freshmen figure to play healthy roles, especially Kohler in the post.
So what are the expectations for this team with a limited roster?
Look, I know what Izzo is doing with his scholarships is unorthodox and it may be tough to see his vision, but he did make some good points when he stated that it’s impossible to make a dozen-plus scholarship guys all happy at the same time. So keeping this roster on the slimmer end may actually help the rotation. Heck, Izzo usually struggles to trim the rotation for months anyways.
And Michigan State’s starting five is easily one of the best in the conference. Hoggard is an All-Big Ten first-team talent, Hall has shown in the past he can be special, Hauser is finally gaining confidence, Walker has shown to be a legit two-way threat, Akins might end up as the most improved player on the team, Brooks can shoot the lights out, Sissoko has “developed,” Kohler is a future star, Cooper is a “diamond in the rough” per Izzo, and Holloman can be a lockdown defender.
No, this team isn’t super deep, but even the best teams play 7-8 guys regularly. It’s when you’re forced to reach into the No. 9 and No. 10 player off the bench that you’re probably in trouble.
An injury would derail things, no doubt, but this team has talent.
Not only do they have talent, but they’re going to be more battle-tested than every single team in the Big Ten when conference play begins. That early-season gauntlet is going to force these guys to grow up in a hurry.
But this squad is structured to be one of those surprisingly-solid underrated Izzo teams.
Realistic expectations have to be a top-four finish in the conference standings in a down year for the Big Ten and an NCAA Tournament berth. Those should be the expectations for this team. The ceiling would probably be conference title contention and a top-five seed in the NCAA Tournament. I can see MSU starting the season 2-5 and then reeling off 10 straight wins. That’s just how the schedule is structured.
One thing is certain, however: Michigan State is going to grow up quickly and be dang good by the start of conference play. Then anything is possible.