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Michigan State Basketball: Great, good, bad, and ugly from loss at Michigan

Carson Cooper was a real bright spot.



Michigan State basketball
© Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Just days after tragedy struck in East Lansing, Michigan State basketball traveled to Ann Arbor with support from the entire community.

In what is almost an impossible task, Michigan State basketball had to continue its season on Saturday night while still trying to heal.

The Wolverines did an incredible job at setting aside the intense cross-town rivalry in order to support and lift up the entire state of Michigan. From moments of silence, to Michigan fans donning the green and white, the Wolverine support and compassion was tremendous.

After emotional pregame speeches and moments of silence, the Spartans and Wolverines tipped off in what proved to be an intense battle to stay alive in the Big Ten. Both teams traded blows in the first half, MSU pulling out to an eight point lead with four minutes remaining in the first half. Michigan, however, would not go down without a fight. Eventually taking a 66-65 lead with just over five minutes remaining, the Wolverines never looked back. Michigan would closed the game on a 12-0 run, beating the Spartans 84-72.

While Saturday’s game was much more than just basketball, Michigan State basketball left Ann Arbor with a loss at the hands of the Wolverines, putting their Big Ten double-bye chances at a minimum.

Here are the great, good, bad, and ugly from Saturday night’s loss.

Great: Carson Cooper

For weeks now, fans have gotten a little more than five minutes of both Carson Cooper and Jaxon Kohler. And for weeks now, Cooper and Kohler have proven they deserve more playing time.

It may not correlate into numbers on the stat sheet, but Cooper proved over multiple possessions on Saturday night that his potential and, to be honest, his abilities now are better than our current situation at center. The Jackson native might not have the footwork of Jaxon Kohler, or the athleticism of Mady Sissoko, but his defense and basketball IQ are much better at the moment.

Finishing with four points and two rebounds, Cooper also showed great movement without the ball in order to give more space to the Spartan guards. While his hustle has always been there, his potential increases with each game.

If you want to compare and argue for Kohler to absorb Sissoko’s minutes over Cooper, that’s fair. But after Saturday’s game against Michigan, both deserve credit. Couple the promising play from Kohler and Cooper with the intense lack of growth and production of Sissoko, and it becomes obvious that it is beyond time to make the switch to the young bucks.

Good: Malik Hall

The senior captain has had a rough go at the 2022-23 season. When he is not battling the injury bug, Malik Hall is trying to still get into a groove of any kind. Saturday’s game was a good sign that Hall may have enough minutes under his belt this season to begin contributing offensively once again. Finishing the game shooting 6-for-11 with 14 points, Hall gave a great spark off the bench.

When in his offensive groove, Hall is an above average shooter. He just needs to take the shots when given the chance. Unfortunately, Malik has the tendency to go notable absent for stretches at a time, scoring just four against Rutgers and then three at Ohio State. Saturday’s game had Hall attempting 11 shots, tying his season high (Hall went 7-for-11 in the double overtime win against Kentucky). Hopefully he continues letting the shots fly.

While the guard/forward starting situation is not likely to not change, Hall’s leadership and ability will give MSU a great option from a sixth man position, if he can stay healthy and in his groove.

Bad: Defense

Michigan State has done a superb job this season at limit opposing teams on the offensive end.

Coming into Saturday night’s matchup with a top tier Big Ten defense, the Spartans were gashed at every position by Michigan. Even without expected lottery pick Jett Howard for most of the second half, the Wolverines put up 51 total points in the final 20 minutes of play. Finishing with 84 points, MSU surrendered a season high against their in-state rival. Even more, it came from a number of contributors, as five different Wolverines scored in double figures.

While MSU did a decent job on Michigan star Hunter Dickinson, they allowed unusual suspects Dug McDaniel and Tarris Reed Jr. to have career days. The Wolverines would end the night shooting almost 50 percent from the field, a feat that has not happened very often this season against the green and white.

Michigan State must buckle down on the defensive end as their offense isn’t good enough to win a race to 80 this season.

Ugly: Rebounding

The most glaring, lopsided stat from Saturday night’s game in Ann Arbor was the rebounding battle. Michigan State, a program built on crashing the glass, was outrebounded by a whopping 13 boards. Offensively, the Wolverines collected 14, as opposed to the Spartan’s six. Those 14 offensive rebounds resulted in 13 second chance points, and would end up being the deciding factor in a mostly neck and neck matchup.

It wasn’t much better on the other end, the Wolverines grabbing 24 defensive rebounds while the Spartans only collecting 19. Sissoko finished the evening with just two boards, while Michigan big men Dickinson and Reed Jr. had a combined 17.

In Big Ten play, getting dominated on the glass as MSU did on Saturday will turn ugly nine times out of ten.


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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