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Michigan State Basketball: The great, good, bad, and ugly from difficult Maryland win

Quad 1 wins are always welcome.



Michigan State basketball
© Dale Young-USA TODAY Sports

While not pretty, Michigan State basketball was able to rally against one of the hottest teams in the Big Ten.

We’ve seen Michigan State basketball get off to hot starts this season before, specifically against Indiana. In that game in particular, the Spartans suddenly went ice cold, the Hoosiers became red hot, and Michigan State was run out of the building.

After scoring the game’s first 15 points on Tuesday night, MSU seemed to be falling into the same trap. Fueled by Maryland guard Jahmir Young, the Terrapins went on a 13-4 run to bring the game to within six with eight minutes remaining in the first half.

Maryland used a balanced attack throughout the second half to eventually take their first lead with 12 minutes left in the game. The Spartans countered with Joey Hauser and Tyson Walker shooting a combined 6-for-11 from deep and some supporting offense from Malik Hall, Jaden Akins, and A.J. Hoggard. Even with four Terps scoring in double figures, Michigan State leaned on the likes of Walker and Hauser once again to finish the game with a victory.

While it wasn’t pretty in what some would considered a must win, Michigan State was able to rally against one of the hottest teams in the Big Ten.

Here are the great, good, bad and ugly from Tuesday night’s victory.

Great: Tyson Walker and Joey Hauser

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, Michigan State was carried offensively by Tyson Walker and Joey Hauser.

During the Spartans’ red hot start, the two were on fire, scoring the team’s first 10 points. As buckets became hard to come by and the entire team went cold, it seemed the only two that could stop the bleeding were Walker and Hauser. Joey would go on to lead both teams in scoring with 20, while Tyson was tied with Maryland’s Jahmir Young for second with 17.

We have seen both Tyson and Joey unguardable throughout this season. We have also seen the pair disappear and only attempt 2-3 shots. It is apparent which situation is the Spartans formula for success. If Michigan State is to put together this late season push for a double bye in the Big Ten Tournament, Walker and Hauser must attempt 7-10 shots per game. They are the firepower in this offense.

Good: 3-point defense

Maryland came into the Breslin as one of the hottest teams in the Big Ten, winners of four in a row, including against second place Indiana. While the Terrapins don’t light the world on fire from deep, they do have three players shooting over 30 percent from deep, and three others shooting just under.

On Tuesday night, the Spartans limited Maryland to just 13 percent from three. In a game in which Maryland already was putting together large scoring runs, adding some successful three point attempts could have buried the Spartans.

An ongoing storyline this season, Michigan State continued their strong defense around the perimeter and the final score is a direct link.

Over the last six games, Michigan State is 3-1 when holding their opponents to less than 20 percent from deep. While holding your opponent to poor 3-point shooting will equal success is not ground breaking, MSU has the ability to defend at this high rate. They must make it a constant moving forward.

Bad: Bench production

Other than Hall, Michigan State’s bench offense has left a lot to be desired. Hall, a likely starter if not for his continued injuries, accounted for all seven bench points against Maryland. Tre Holloman continued to showcase his lack of offensive confidence, Jaxon Kohler provided a few good post moves but came up short each time, and Pierre Brooks had both of his 3-point shots way off target, again.

Due to the streakiness of the Spartan starters, Michigan State must get more production from their bench players.

For reference, Indiana currently leads the league in bench scoring with 22.17 points per game. MSU sits at No. 327 nationally with just 13 points per game from their bench. Depth will be a necessity in the tournament and while Michigan State has the talent on the bench, they have not preformed thus far.

Ugly: Scoring droughts

Time and time again this season, Michigan State will go multiple minutes with not even a single basket. No matter how hot this team starts, going three-plus minutes without scoring will not get it done.

On Tuesday night, Michigan State had a 15-point cushion and not even that was safe when MSU went cold. Michigan State went six and a half minutes during the first half without scoring a field goal. Continuing their stretches of being held scoreless, the Spartans then had a three-minute drought in the second half, resulting in a 14-0 run by the Terrapins.

During these stretches, the Spartan possessions vary from turnovers, lack of movement, and even some open shots that come up short. Michigan State basketball must find a way to put a stop to these droughts before they get out of control or else it will be the end of them come March. It can start with better timeout usage by Izzo, but also falls on the veterans to take over and take what the defense is giving them at the time.


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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