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Michigan State Basketball: The great, good, bad, ugly from Buffalo win

MSU picked up a confidence-building win over Buffalo.



Michigan State basketball

Michigan State basketball closed out 2022 with a win over the underrated Buffalo Bulls last Friday night, 89-68.

The college basketball season during the holidays is consistently a difficult time for players and coaches alike. Between finals and and winter break, routines and momentum are easily broken. Michigan State basketball saw this firsthand during the first five plus minutes in each the first and second half of Friday’s game.

Former Buffalo coach Nate Oats, a Michigan native and long time friend of Tom Izzo, instilled the same play style as Izzo in the Bulls’ program. They want to push the ball, and increase the rate of play. Michigan State struggled with this style over the first few possessions, more than likely due to the conditioning and lack thereof during this holiday break.

Once they were able to get into a groove, Michigan State played a fairly flawless game. Led by Malik Hall, who was making his first appearance since injuring his foot back in November, MSU scored from all levels, setting a new season high points with 89.

Here is the great, good, bad, and ugly from Michigan States’ last game of 2022.

Great: Malik Hall

Even without the added element of Malik Hall making his anticipated return Friday night, he was fantastic. Rightfully so, Izzo kept Hall from starting and limited his playing time as he eases him back into game play conditioning, but Hall made the most of his 12 minutes of play. Scoring 11 points on 75 percent shooting, Malik seems to not have missed a beat offensively.

Outside of Jaden Akins, Hall was easily the most efficient from beyond the arc. Having just his leadership and experience back on the court is invaluable but adding his continued offensive success will take this team much further come March.

Good: A.J. Hoggard in the post

It has been no secret this season that, outside a handful of matchups, Michigan State has lacked a scoring presence down low. It was noted that MSU was going to make a point of that against Buffalo, and that A.J. Hoggard himself was going to be active in the post. Hoggard has proven that he is an above average slasher, excelling at using his body while driving to the hoop. What he showed against the Bulls, however, was his footwork and ability to make moves when near the basket, rather than simply flying towards it.

Hoggard finished with 11 points, and while his work down low most likely won’t be noticed outside their film session, by putting in the work towards the basket, A.J. opened up the arc for his teammates, leading to 21 assists, surpassing their 16 assists per game this season by five.

Bad: Conditioning opening each half

It wouldn’t be a Michigan State Basketball game if their opponent didn’t make a run at some point, making it somewhat of a close game. As previously mentioned, Buffalo plays a similar style of game to the Spartans, pushing the tempo and getting points in transition. Michigan State had a hard time keeping up with the Bulls throughout the first five minutes of the first half, and then again for the first ten minutes in the second.

It was apparent that the holiday break had taken somewhat of a toll on the Spartans as the game was tied at just nine apiece with 11:50 remaining in the opening half. MSU began to gain steam and closed the first half up by 11. Unfortunately, they fell victim once again to open the second half. Buffalo rattled off an 8-0 run, pulling to within three just three minutes into the second half. Again, however, Michigan State found their groove and used their momentum to counter their lack of conditioning to pull away.

Ugly: N/A (Bonus Good)

Even with the apparent conditioning issues, Michigan State took care of business against a Buffalo team that is potentially dangerous. There is a reason that Tom Izzo was not thrilled to have to play the Bulls coming back from the holiday break. All that being said, MSU came away with no glaring weak points Friday night.

So, instead of an Ugly, I want to highlight a bonus Good from MSU’s win. Over the last few weeks, Michigan State has struggled to find their way to the free throw line. Over the last three games, Michigan State has only made 22 free throws combined. On Friday night, they had 21 alone.

Getting to the charity stripe is vital in many different ways, and averaging just 7.3 free throws per game, as they had for most of December, will absolutely not get it done.


Has Michigan State basketball had the “perfect” offseason so far?

The MSU basketball offseason has felt so much better than football’s.



Michigan State basketball
© Nick King/Lansing State Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

Unlike the football program so far, Michigan State basketball has had an impressive, almost perfect offseason.

Anything is possible in today’s college basketball world. We have seen some crazy things with the one-time transfer rule and NIL in full effect. Star players like Hunter Dickinson are transferring to powerhouse programs like Kansas and some players are leaving the schools they love just to chase money. We are even seeing incoming freshman reopening their recruitments in June.

I’ll say it again, anything is possible in college basketball today. It seems nearly impossible for a program to have a perfect offseason nowadays. Whether they want their players to stay or they need to get a high-profile transfer to join their team, no program gets everything they want. However, I would argue that Michigan State basketball has had the perfect offseason, or as close to it as reasonably possible.

No key players transferring to new programs

As I mentioned before, star players in a great positions at their programs are still deciding to transfer. Almost every program has someone significant decide to leave the program. Thankfully for Michigan State, that did not happen this season.

Pierre Brooks is the only player to transfer to a new program when he decided to take his talents to Butler. I never like seeing players leave the program, but I think everyone saw this coming. Brooks would have struggled to make the rotation again this year, so it makes sense for him to find a better fit somewhere else.

The transfer portal can be a scary thing, but the Spartans survived it this year.

Players deciding early to return

Whether it be deciding to enter the transfer portal or go pro, some athletes take a long time to make their final decision. Michigan State, on the other hand, got a lot of good news early this offseason. Both Malik Hall and Tyson Walker announced they were returning to Michigan State early on in the offseason.

Both could have attempted to go the pro route. However, both didn’t even tempt those waters. Arguably Michigan State’s best player and this past season’s sixth man are coming back for another year and that’s massive.

Players withdrawing from the NBA draft

Jaden Akins and AJ Hoggard both entered their name into the NBA Draft. I thought it was possible for Akins to keep his name in the draft, but nobody ever knows what a player will decide to do. All it takes is one team to promise they will draft them and that player could be gone. Thankfully for Michigan State, that did not happen to either player. Both Akins and Hoggard announced their return to Michigan State on May 31 much to all Spartan fans’ delight.

Incoming freshmen class

To round out the perfect offseason, Michigan State’s elite freshmen class has stayed intact. This class is No. 5 in the country and is bringing in four players who can contribute from day one.

Once players sign, usually that means the drama is over. That, however, is not the case anymore. A decent amount of players have asked to be released from their commitments to their program, including one top player who decommitted from Kansas on June 3. With all of Michigan State’s returning production, this could have been possible for one of our incoming freshmen. Thankfully again, this did not occur to the Spartans, and the class has remained committed.

The one negative you could argue

There is one negative thing you could argue that happened to Michigan State this offseason. That is Joey Hauser deciding to go pro and not return to Michigan State basketball for a final season.

Like Brooks, I think most expected this, but I can’t deny how amazing it would have been to have him back again next year. However, who knows what could have happened if he did return. Maybe another player decides to transfer because there aren’t enough minutes to go around. Maybe an incoming freshman decides he’d be better off somewhere else. Nobody knows what would have happened if Joey came back. With all the positives that occurred this offseason, I am fine with Hauser deciding to leave the program.

Michigan State has everything to play for next season. A conference title, Final Four, and national championship are all very realistic. Michigan State will likely be a top-five team in the country to start the season, and that is thanks to a near-perfect offseason for the program.

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Michigan State basketball: AJ Hoggard earns high praise from Malik Hall (Video)

Malik Hall had nothing but good things to say about AJ Hoggard.



Michigan State basketball
© Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

Michigan State basketball got some good news this week and Malik Hall is more than happy to have AJ Hoggard back.

In a recent interview with Justin Spiro, Malik Hall spoke in detail about AJ Hoggard. He discussed how great of a person he is on and off the court and how there are a lot of misconceptions about him from Michigan State basketball fans.

Here is a two-minute clip from that interview where Hall talks about AJ.

The star point guard AJ Hoggard dealt with a lot of criticism from the Spartan fanbase this season. Nobody plays great every game, and I think our fans mostly understand that.

The thing that bothered some of our fans however was Hoggard’s body language in the games in which he was struggling. Instead of staying positive, some fans criticized him for seemingly not trying or caring during his struggles.

AJ Hoggard: The leader

Malik Hall is here to tell you that none of that is true. Hall explained how this opinion from fans is the furthest thing from the truth. Malik mentioned that even though AJ’s face looks like he doesn’t care, that is not how he feels at all. That’s great to hear about your starting point guard and one of the leaders of the team. Guys look to AJ for leadership and motivation, so if they see negative body language from him they are likely to mirror that. So even though AJ sometimes looks like he is checked out on the court, it’s nice to know that the rest of the team doesn’t feel that way.

Malik also went on to share that AJ is one of the nicest and most genuine guys he knows. He considers Hoggard to be one of his best friends not just on the team, but in his life. Hall mentioned that AJ is the first guy to text you when you are struggling with something outside of basketball.

That’s the best type of leader in my opinion. Someone who pushes you to be great on the court but always makes sure you are okay off the court.

Sophomore guard Tre Holloman responded to this tweet on Twitter agreeing with what Hall said.

The next time you think AJ looks out of it in a game, remember this interview. Remember that Malik Hall mentioned that nobody on the team feels this way and they all know that how AJ truly feels doesn’t match the “AJ face.”

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Writer says there’s a huge gap between Purdue and Michigan State basketball

This seems like a wild claim.



Michigan State basketball
© Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

Gregg Doyel of the Indy Star claims that Purdue is “historically loaded” and there’s a huge gap between them and Michigan State basketball.

With the news of Jaden Akins and AJ Hoggard returning along with Tyson Walker and Malik Hall to go along with the No. 4 recruiting class in the country, Michigan State basketball went from a conference title contender to a national title contender.

Essentially everyone who follows college basketball has Michigan State as a top-five team and right there in the Big Ten as 1B to Purdue’s 1A — some even have it the other way around.

The Spartans bring back everyone but Joey Hauser to a team that went to the Sweet 16 and Purdue returns national player of the year Zach Edey to a Big Ten title team. Both teams are loaded and should be at the top of everyone’s list when it comes to national title contention.

But one Indy Star writer believes that Purdue is “historically loaded” and the talent-and-depth gap between the Boilermakers and “everyone else” is as large as he’s seen in years. Just a wild claim.

Gregg Doyel cites a solid incoming class to go along with Edey returning and the two freshmen guards with another year in the system. But he fails to recognize that Michigan State got even better. The Spartans are bringing in an even better recruiting class and they return their 2-3 most talented players from a year ago. The only loss is Hauser.

Saying that this year’s Purdue team is far-and-away the most talented and deepest team in the Big Ten and the gap is the biggest it’s been in years is asinine. There was a much larger gap last year.

Michigan State will go toe-to-toe with the Boilermakers and as long as Edey can be neutralized, the Spartans will have a chance to take them down for the Big Ten crown.

It’s tough to say a team like Michigan State basketball that’s 11-12 guys deep is not nearly as talented or deep as Purdue, but hey, let’s put that early chip on the shoulder.

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