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Michigan State Basketball: The great, good, bad, and ugly from win at Ohio State

The Spartans finally had a stress-free win.



Michigan State basketball
© Brooke LaValley/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

After almost collapsing against Maryland last week, Michigan State basketball went down to Columbus and picked apart the struggling Buckeyes.

After almost collapsing against Maryland last week, Michigan State basketball went down to Columbus and was able to pick apart Chris Holtmann’s struggling Buckeyes, 62-41.

Both teams got off to another slow start, only scoring nine points each with just over eight minutes remaining in the first half. While the Spartan guards were not able to get anything going from deep, Joey Hauser and the forwards could not miss. Combining Hauser’s 66 percent shooting from 3-point range, an offensive spark from the freshmen big men Carson Cooper and Jaxon Kohler, and stifling defense, MSU was able to cruise to a victory Sunday afternoon.

The Spartans will need to continue the momentum from this two game win streak into the final games of the season if they are to make any noise come March.

Here are the great, good, bad and ugly from MSU’s win against Ohio State.

Great: Perimeter defense

If you have watched any Michigan State basketball this season, it is apparent that MSU has one of the most stout defenses in the Big Ten.

Going into Sunday’s matchup, Michigan State ranked 4th in the Big Ten in points allowed with 64.4, third in field goal percentage with 41.6 percent, and first in opponent 3-point field goal percentage at 27.4. This trend continued against the Buckeyes, as MSU held them to a staggering 20 percent from deep. To have continued defensive performances as the Spartans have had this season, it takes a full team effort.

OSU finished the first half with just 14 points, their fewest sine 1996. Not allowing Ohio State to get into any sort of rhythm from three point range worked well for the Spartans in that their transition game and pacing could be set at a level where Michigan State basketball excelled. This team’s defensive abilities are better than we have seen for the green and white in years.

Good: Transition offense

It seemed as though Michigan State was able to get back to their roots and attack in transition against Ohio State on Sunday. With MSU starting the game off slow once again, it was imperative they push the ball and avoid half court sets. The Spartans did a great job limiting OSU on the offensive side and immediately sending the ball up court. Even if their aggressive transitions didn’t equate to fast break layups, they more often than not ended with a wide open shot. Setting the pace while in a hostile environment such as Columbus can make or break your performance.

Even if the Spartans weren’t hitting their open shots, more on that later, the open looks were a great sight to see. They will fall eventually.

Bad: Spartan guards’ 3-point shooting

As much of a difficult time the Buckeyes had from deep, the Spartan guards struggled just as badly. Jaden Akins, A.J. Hoggard, Tyson Walker, and Pierre Brooks went a combined 0-11 on the day.

As previously mentioned, getting open shots after pushing in transition was not an issue for MSU. Possession after possession, their transition game was leading to good looks, that, unfortunately, Michigan State guards just couldn’t bury.

It seemed as though MSU’s forwards were the only players able to cash in from deep. Joey Hauser carried the Spartans performance Sunday, going six for nine from three point range, while Malik Hall connected on his only attempt. As previously mentioned, getting the open looks that Michigan State had on Sunday afternoon will often lead to someone catching fire from three. As long as one positional group can pick up the slack, this should not be an issue for the Spartans moving forward.

Ugly: Free throw opportunities

Great perimeter defense and a lack of free throw attempts should be this season’s headline. With just over three minutes remaining in the game, Michigan State was dangerously close to breaking a record that has stood for almost 20 years.

February 28, 2004, at Penn State was the last time the Spartans were held without a free throw attempt. Thanks to Carson Cooper’s and-one completion, Michigan State did not renew this record but having just one attempt is terrible nonetheless. Zero free throw points, let alone attempts, for 90 percent of a Big Ten game falls on all position players. It shows the guards and forwards were not attacking the basket, nor were the Spartan centers applying pressure downlow.

Now, it’s safe to say this was very much a game in which the referees allowed players to simply play on as Ohio State only had two attempts themselves. Regardless, Michigan State must do a better job at forcing the referees to make calls. Altering opponent’s game plans by getting players in foul trouble will be key going through the Big Ten tournament.


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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