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Michigan State basketball: The best and worst of the 2022-23 season thus far

It’s been a wild ride thus far for MSU hoops.

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Michigan State basketball
Dale Young-USA TODAY Sports

With Michigan State basketball reopening Big Ten play on Tuesday, let’s take a look at some of the bests and worsts from an eventful season.

Here we are; 2023 is upon us and the holiday craziness is winding down. Michigan State basketball reopened Big Ten play and kicked off the start of a grueling month on the schedule with a very impressive 74-56 win at home vs. Nebraska on Tuesday night.

The win improves the Spartans to 10-4 on the season as we are quickly approaching the halfway mark of the regular season. The first half of the season for MSU hoops has been a roller coaster with big wins, heartbreaking losses, frustrating injuries, funny outfits (more on that later), and everything in between.

The first 14 games have fueled lengthy celebrations and Twitter debates.

As we approach the meat and potatoes of the Michigan State basketball season as well as the halfway point of the year, let’s take a look back at some of the best (and worst) moments of the season so far.

Best win

There’s been a few win’s so far this season that would qualify here. MSU has had some games so far where they have looked very dominant, last night being one of them.

With several choices standing out, the one that comes to mind most for me would be the win on Nov. 15 at the Champions Classic versus the No. 4 Kentucky Wildcats. The Champions Classic is always a special way to kick off the season and those games are some that coach Izzo loves where he can test his squad early on. That game for MSU showed us that when it is executing, this team can compete with the best in the country and when the cards are falling against them, they will not quit.

Multiple set plays late in the fourth quarter and end of overtime were used and executed flawlessly to get the Spartans a bucket early and Mady Sissoko had a bit of an exclamation point proving he is going to be a threat this year with his 16 points and eight boards. Joey Hauser re-affirmed his nickname of “Joey Buckets” leading MSU with 23 points and the Spartans edged the Wildcats in a double overtime instant classic 86-77.

Worst loss

The obvious choice for this one is the Notre Dame loss in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge on Nov. 30 in South Bend. With Malik Hall and Jaden Akins injured and MSU already coming to the end of its brutal schedule in November, to say the Spartans were fatigued and shorthanded would be an understatement, however, Notre Dame has not played well since the win vs. MSU.

At the time, the Irish moved to 6-1 and looked like a team that could make a little noise later in the season however the wheels have fallen off and they now sit at 8-7 after their most recent game, a loss at Boston College.

The advanced metrics have this loss currently sitting as a Quad 3 loss, which is not a great mark on the resume for MSU. Hopefully the Irish can get back into a bit better form and win some games going down the second half of the year to improve that metric for us.

Best player

This was probably the hardest choice for me. So much so that I created another category to help differentiate a couple of players.

So far to me, the best player for MSU this year has been Tyson Walker. The dynamic guard pairing of him and AJ Hoggard has been great for most of the games for MSU and has really helped stabilize a sometimes-erratic team. Tyson is leading the team with the most minutes and points per game. Overall, Tyson is averaging 13.9 points, 3.3 assists, 2.6 rebounds, 1.0 steals, and 1.1 turnovers per game while playing 33.6 minutes. His consistency has been key and his ability to play well from different positions on the floor has really been great for coach Izzo to rotate when things aren’t going well for other players.

Most important player

As previously mentioned, I wanted to do two of these player categories to really explain the importance of this person on the Michigan State basketball team. The stats aren’t really indicative of the impact he’s made on the court, but I believe the most important piece to this 2022-23 team is Malik Hall.

Malik is a senior leader that, much like Tyson, provides a calming stability to the younger guys on the floor. His leadership and intangibles are hard to measure but look at the teams from the games where he was injured and then look at the games without him. There is a pretty clear difference. It’s no coincidence that I think two of MSU’s most complete games of the season top to bottom have been the most recent games against Buffalo and Nebraska. Those just happen to be the two games Malik has been back since his foot injury.

The stats do show some production still. Malik is averaging 10.7 points per game to go with 4.2 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.3 steals, and 0.5 blocks per game in 26.2 minutes. He is averaging just 1.5 turnovers a game, which isn’t terrible.

The team as a whole has turned the ball over significantly less this year and I feel like the leadership from Malik, Tyson, and Joey is a big part of that.

Best outfit

There simply could not be a “best of the season so far” list without talking about this moment. I don’t remember a time when I laughed so hard than when Izzo drew a technical foul from the bench during the game against Oakland on Dec. 21, while sporting an “Angry Elf” Christmas Sweater.

Special shoutout to Oakland’s Kampe for getting Tom to join in on the ugly Christmas sweater party on the sidelines. It was a funny and nice way to get a little holiday cheer into the game before the Christmas break. We have all seen coach lose it on the sidelines a few times and get a technical here and there but there is something about watching him yell at an official while dressed as an elf that just made it so much better.

So outfit of the year has to go to coach Izzo and thanks to him for sparking some hilarious banter in group chats everywhere.

Best student section performance

There’s a few choices to pick from in my last category for the mid-season summary article. The Izzone has always been known as one of the best student sections in the country and this year has been no different.

My pick for the best student section performance of the year would be during the Villanova game on Nov. 18. That game started out with MSU coming out absolutely on fire and it lead to the Breslin to be rocking. A furious Villanova comeback in the second half quieted the crowd a bit but the fans remained loud and effective and it really helped MSU stave off a last-second upset bid against a good but under-performing Villanova team.

A special honorable mention in this category goes to the Izzone last night against Nebraska. That was the annual Izzone Alumni game and the “old folks” came out in full force last night. The Izzone Alumni game always looks to be a blast and it was no different last night. Even the commentators on the Big Ten Network were mentioning how impressed they were with the turnout with no kids being on campus so a special shoutout to those involved on Tuesday night.

All in all, it has been a very fun start to the 2022-23 season. For all the talk prior to the season about the tough November schedule, I feel like this team has handled it better than I expected and looks to be a threat to compete for championships this year. The team is back from Christmas break and healthy which is going to be crucial with a stretch of tough big ten games ahead. January’s schedule is not going to be easy starting with a big game Saturday at the Breslin Center against the school down the road.

With students coming back to campus this weekend, hopefully they can bring the noise, and Michigan State basketball can keep rounding into form as 2023 continues.

It’s officially hate week, everyone. Go Green!

Dad, die hard MSU (and Detroit sports) fan, and writer for Spartan Shadows. Certified knower of Ball (and puck). MSU Content Creator since 2022. Central Michigan Alum!

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