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Day in the life of Michigan State basketball writer at Madison Square Garden

What a surreal experience.



Michigan State basketball
© Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Covering a Michigan State basketball game at Madison Square Garden was a dream and I got to live it a month ago.

The first Saturday of February, the opportunity of a lifetime dropped into my lap (or rather my Twitter DMs), as I was granted media access for the Rutgers vs. Michigan State basketball game at Madison Square Garden. Before I go on, I just want to give a massive thank you to Anthony Wright, who went out of his way to do this for me. I am eternally grateful and he is now my favorite Michigan hoops player of all time. Everybody else is tied for last.

The entire experience was a complete whirlwind of emotion to the extent that I don’t even remember the result of the game, none of us do. I’m sure it wasn’t important anyways. Is Rutgers even real? 

I had about 12 hours to mentally prepare and honestly could not wrap my head around the fact that this was actually happening. And frankly, I still don’t really believe it did. My favorite team in the World’s Most Famous Arena. The most difficult aspect of my preparation was something that I’m sure every Spartan can sympathize with; making sure not to lose my mind on every Jaxon Kohler dream shake or, adversely scream at Tom Izzo when our hottest player inevitably gets benched for most of the second half.

As we all know both happened and I’m proud to report I kept the screaming to (mostly) internal.  

Onto the logistics of what having a press pass looked like.

I walked to MSG from my nearby apartment not knowing what to expect, outside of the 33rd and 8th “VIP” entrance I was informed to head to. That was a pretty intimidating beginning to the day, trying my best to not let imposter syndrome get the best of me.

The Spartan Shadows’ Big Ten lanyard with my name on it was waiting for me, along with the best perk of them all: a food/drink voucher. I was then escorted to an elevator that would bring me to floor level.

Up to the floor, interesting. There was very minimal instruction from there as it was assumed that the media would know how to get to reserved seats. Refusing to ask for further instruction, I stumbled around the hallowed belly of Madison Square Garden until I saw a familiar face in Matt McQuaid (although I think we know him better as ‘Big Shot Quaido’). He unknowingly escorted me to the media section; in Layman’s terms, I followed him.

Whether I’m walking in courtside or the 400s section, there will always be that exhilarating child-like feeling of the first sight of the floor. I’m gonna be honest, my first impression despite being mere feet from Izzo and our players was, “Holy crap that’s a lot of red.” There’s me making up for my Rutgers slander earlier. Seriously, the Rutgers fans were out in droves and extremely obnoxious. I mean loud. 

The stars(at least in the journalism world) were out and about in the 10-row media section behind the left side of the hoop, to the right of the Michigan State basketball bench. I had my name written out on a small piece of cardstock indicating my place in the media right in between Andy Katz and AJ Hoggard’s personal photographer. The aforementioned imposter syndrome has fully kicked into gear at this point.

With media credentials I was allowed to freely roam around any section I pleased, which I took full advantage of getting just about every view I could. Anyone who has the chance to be that close to the Division 1 level can tell you just how athletic and simply good these guys are. Walking around courtside definitely gives a newfound appreciation for the athletes that these students are. The most challenging part of my day was being that close to Paul Mulcahy tearing the Spartans apart in the second half while having to exhibit the restraint of running onto the court and tackling him Cal Haladay style. The noise the Rutgers fans were making at every Mulcahy bucket down the stretch had the rafters of MSG thinking Bernard King was back dropping 60 again.

Done with the Rutgers compliments forever. 

The post-game was immensely more fascinating than the game for more reasons than just the result. Following the final buzzer, I was able to walk around the hardwood, which was cool enough even without rubbing shoulders with Mel Tucker. We were asked to congregate in the press room 10 minutes after the game ended, where the losing coach would speak first followed by the winning coach. Unfortunately, I was not graced with Steve Pickiell’s presence first.

I know Izzo is always fantastic at public speaking, especially with the media, but experiencing firsthand the way he commanded the room and put genuine thought into every question was remarkable. Considering the loss, he was in a great mood and very complimentary of the job Pikiell has done at Rutgers, calling them “the second-best team in our conference.”

Izzo expressed respect for his opponent, players, media, and even the venue. The biggest honor of the whole experience was to be able to witness such class and professionalism up close. 

We flooded out of the media room to speak to the Michigan State basketball players who were waiting for us outside of the locker room. There was a buffet there, too, but I’d like to think Joey Hauser was more interested in my question for him. After an 0-5 start Joey got a few to fall, so I asked him where he finds the confidence to keep shooting and if a venue like MSG changes the mindset. He responded candidly saying that MSG could have changed the mindset a little bit, but he always has to just trust his shot no matter the circumstances. Closed by agreeing that he’d rather play at MSG than The “RAC.” Izzo reiterated that many times earlier as well.

My final act as a Spartan Shadows reporter at MSG was to ask AJ Hoggard a question he was delighted to hear: “Do you think Rutgers sped you up at times today?” It was met with a resounding “nah.”

I wandered around MSG as long as I could, not knowing when I would have such access again while trying to admire every crevice of this cathedral of entertainment. When I finally departed I was left asking myself over and over, “Did that really just happen?” and “Does AJ Hoggard hate me?”

I truly cannot put into words what a surreal and inspiring experience this was, despite the last 1,000 words being my attempt to do exactly that. I said that it was a whirlwind of emotions and it was, but the biggest emotion I felt leaving was gratitude. Gratitude to be in a position of sheer luck and the kindness of others (one more Ant Wright shoutout) to be able to cover my favorite basketball in the best venue and city in the entire world. Gratitude and love cannot be expressed enough in times like this.

Go Green. 


Michigan State basketball: Way-too-early projected starting 5 for 2023-24

Next year’s team could be special.



Michigan State basketball
© Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan State basketball has officially entered the offseason and now it’s time to predict what next year looks like.

Markquis Nowell will go down in Michigan State basketball history as one of those forbidden names. We will no longer be mentioning the Kansas State guard as he’s now in the same group as Giddy Potts, Boo Buie, Jabari Parker, and Shabazz Napier. We’re just throwing those names out for good.

Now that we got that out of the way, we can move forward and look ahead to next season.

And next season could be special. Michigan State brings back some key players such as Jaden Akins, AJ Hoggard, Mady Sissoko, Jaxon Kohler, Carson Cooper, Tre Holloman, and potentially Pierre Brooks. However, decisions have yet to be officially made for Tyson Walker, Malik Hall, and Joey Hauser, but an elite recruiting class is coming in.

In fact, the Spartans are bringing in one of the best recruiting classes in program history, led by five-star big man Xavier Booker, five-star point guard Jeremy Fears, four-star super-athlete Coen Carr, and four-star athletic sharpshooting wing Gehrig Normand.

The lineup next year should be athletic and the bench will be deep.

But what will the starting five look like, assuming that Hauser is gone? Here’s my best guess:

PG: AJ Hoggard, SR
G: Tyson Walker, SR
G: Jaden Akins, JR
F: Xavier Booker, FR
C: Mady Sissoko, SR

AJ Hoggard will be back for his senior year to lead the team at the point and he might just be the Big Ten’s best at the position. He showed against Kansas State that he can take over a game offensively and I’m looking forward to seeing him take another step in 2023-24.

For my bold prediction: I think we see Walker return. The way the season ended left a sour taste in his mouth and he became one of the best players in the Big Ten. If he gets the green light next year, he could be the Spartans’ go-to- scorer and potentially a Big Ten Player of the Year frontrunner.

Akins’ return is going to be huge for this team as well. If Walker were to leave, he’d assume the role of go-to scorer and I know he’d flourish. But he did play well in a No. 3 option role this season and he’s going to excel as the second option next season. He is the starting five’s top NBA prospect outside of Xavier Booker at the four.

Speaking of Booker, I see him sliding in as the starting power forward much like Jaren Jackson Jr. did as a true freshman. He’s a long, athletic big who can rebound and score in the post and that’s just what was missing this year. While I do think Hall returns and could play the four in a small-ball lineup, I think Tom Izzo brings him off the bench and Booker starts.

Lastly, Mady Sissoko grew a ton this season and I don’t think he’s done getting better. He had his ups and downs and showed how raw he truly was this year, but I think Izzo can mold him into a dominant defensive center. Will he be Oscar Tshiebwe down there? No, but I could see him averaging 2.0 blocks and 7.0-plus rebounds per game next season while continuing his lob-threat ability. Maybe he’ll even develop a post game on offense.

Coming off the bench would be Fears, Hall, Carr, Normand, Holloman, Cooper, and Brooks (assuming he doesn’t hit the portal).

This will be one of the deeper teams that Izzo has ever had and full lineup changes won’t completely crush momentum.

Raise your hand if you’re looking forward to next season.

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Michigan State basketball: Did Tyson Walker hint at return?

Something to monitor.



Michigan State basketball
© Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Tyson Walker might just be teasing us, but he hinted at a return to Michigan State basketball on Instagram.

Now that Michigan State basketball is headed back home after a crushing loss to Kansas State in the Sweet 16, a couple of storylines are going to dominate the offseason.

One, is Tom Izzo going to reach into the transfer portal for some help?

And two, will Tyson Walker, Joey Hauser, or Malik Hall decide to return?

The first question won’t be answered until the second one is and it feels like it’s been one-third answered. Hauser posted somewhat of a farewell on Instagram on Friday with the caption “that’s a wrap” and a green heart emoji. No one was shocked as he was the least likely to return, but it was Walker’s comment on the post that has people raising an eyebrow.

The “idk who I’m going to sit next to on the planes now” comment followed by Houser offering up Jaxon Kohler seems promising. Maybe it’s just two guys having fun with the fans, knowing that emotions are at an all-time high and we will find a way to make every word seem important.

But I’m putting stock in this. It just feels like Walker is leaning more toward coming back because he didn’t even think twice about writing that knowing that people would overreact (like myself).

And Hauser’s response makes it seem even more likely. Like he knows Walker wants to return.

Of course Walker had to post this to calm the rumor mill, but maybe he just let his intentions slip in the original post on Hauser’s Instagram post?

Maybe both guys are just messing around and both Hauser and Walker want to return along with Hall? OK, now I’m going way too far down the “what does this comment mean?” rabbit hole.

Either way, I would venture a guess of Walker returning with Hall while Hauser hangs up the green and white jersey for good.

If that’s the case, it was one heck of a career for Joey and Walker has big things ahead of him in East Lansing.

We can hope.

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Michigan State Basketball: 3 potential 2023-24 lineup options

There will be plenty of options.



Michigan State basketball
© Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Michigan State basketball season came to an unfortunate end yesterday after the devastating overtime loss in the Sweet 16. But what about 2023-24?

That loss is going to sting for at least the next few months. With Tennessee losing as well, the path to the Final Four was Michigan State’s for the taking. Unfortunately, the better team won Thursday night, and it wasn’t Michigan State basketball.

With that being said, there’s a lot of hope and optimism looking forward. Along with the hope, however, comes numerous variables regarding the Spartans’ roster.

Let’s go through a few options Tom Izzo and staff can roll with, roster-wise, in 2023-24.

Option 1: Roll with the roster we have (with a returning member)

  1. A.J. Hoggard/Jeremy Fears
  2. Tyson Walker
  3. Jaden Akins/Coen Carr/Gehrig Normand
  4. Xavier Booker/Jaxon Kohler
  5. Mady Sissoko/Carson Cooper

In option one, Tyson Walker doesn’t want to leave Michigan State with the Kansas State loss looming over him and so he decides to return for one final year. One of the nation’s best guard combinations of AJ Hoggard, Tyson, and Jaden Akins run it back with more experience and more expectations.

Being that Walker returning is the main variable in this scenario rather than a transfer acquisition, Michigan State moves forward with the players and recruits already bought in.

With that being said, Michigan State basketball would be left extremely thin at the four in this scenario. This would force Xavier Booker to step up (a common theme in these scenarios), along with a possible big ball lineup, shifting Jaxon Kohler to the four. With his offensive upside shown this season, but defensive downfalls, this could actually act as a plus.

Option 2: Attack the transfer portal

  1. A.J. Hoggard/Jeremy Fears
  2. Jaden Akins
  3. Transfer Player/Pierre Brooks/Gehrig Normand
  4. Xavier Booker/Coen Carr
  5. Mady Sissoko/Jaxon Kohler

Most fans will be shouting for option two to become reality but, with Tom Izzo’s track record, it’s not as likely.

The variable for option two is Walker, Joey Hauser, and Malik Hall all electing to move on, so Izzo and Co. turn to the well that is the transfer portal. Doing so in the past has seemed to work out with Tyson, so Izzo will be looking to strike gold once again to fill the open wing position.

While there are plenty of names within the portal, the Spartans have been linked to just a few. Six-foot-6 small forward Zack Austin from High Point, 6-foot-5 shooting guard Jace Carter from UIC, and 6-foot-3 combo guard Jayden Taylor from Butler have all been contacted by MSU and would fill the three-guard/small four role well.

Still, MSU would be somewhat light at the four, so the coveted 6-foot-10 freshman Booker would find himself in the starting lineup once again.

The offense would be led by Hoggard, but run through Akins, as he’s proven to be up to the challenge

Option 3: Feed the young bucks

  1. A.J. Hoggard/Jeremy Fears
  2. Jaden Akins/Pierre Brooks
  3. Coen Carr/Gehrig Normand
  4. Xavier Booker/Jaxon Kohler
  5. Mady Sissoko/Carson Cooper

Even less likely than turning to the transfer portal, is option three.

A staple for Tom Izzo-led teams is veteran leadership. It isn’t often a freshman steps in and is given a starting role right away. Think Kalin Lucas, Miles Bridges, or Jaren Jackson Jr. to name a few who were.

In this scenario, not only do Tyson, Hauser, and Hall all move on, but the Spartans also decline to bring in any transfer players. A young starting core would pose a difficult task for Izzo, leading this to being the least likely scenario. I can see plenty of frustration from Hoggard and Akins resulting from the inexperience around them, not to mention a possible second line of Tre Holloman, Pierre Brooks, Jeremy Fears, Gehrig Normand, and Carson Cooper. While it isn’t likely this lineup would see the floor all at the same time, it’s hard to find the trusted go-to guy in that group. MSU is better off avoiding this scenario.

In all reality, Michigan State’s 2024 lineup will likely combine all three of these options. Why choose just one when the most realistic path back to the Final Four is a combination of the three? We will see.

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