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Michigan State Basketball: The great, good, bad, and ugly from emotional win over Indiana

After a nightmare start, the Spartans dominated Indiana.



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

Michigan State basketball feeds off the crowd to earn a victory against Indiana on Tuesday night. Here’s the great, good, bad, and ugly.

MSU students were welcomed back to campus to resume classes on Monday, one week after the horrifying events that took place on Feb. 13. While Michigan State basketball competed once already since the tragedy, Tuesday’s game would mark the first at home, in front of the Spartan community.

While it was no doubt emotional, the fans showed up and provided much-needed energy and support for the green and white.

The Spartans started the game on Tuesday night with what Tom Izzo dubbed “the worst 12-13 minutes of basketball.”

The Hoosiers jumped out to a nine-point lead as Michigan State had zero offense. Michigan State began to fight back, but at an extremely slow rate. With just over six and a half minutes to play in the first, MSU found itself still down nine, 22-13. It then became the Tyson Walker show. After missing his first four shots, Tyson caught fire from deep, igniting the crowd and picking up his teammates. Eventually finishing the first half on an 11-2 run, the Spartans took a 35-29 lead going into halftime

Paring Walker’s hot game with a strong second-half showing from Hoggard, and an outstanding performance off the bench from Kohler, MSU took its lead into the second half and never looked back. Improving to 24-2 against Indiana at home over the last 26, MSU came away with an 80-65 victory.

Here are the great, good, bad, and ugly from the convincing Michigan State basketball win over Indiana, its fourth win vs. an AP Top 25 team.

Great: Tyson Walker and Jaxon Kohler

As previously stated, Michigan State came out as flat as possible against the 17th-ranked Hoosiers and desperately needed someone to step up. Walker, battling cramps throughout the entire game, decided he would be the sparkplug and get the Spartans going. Hitting five of his seven 3-pointers, Walker was unconscious on Tuesday night. We’ve seen this before, specifically against Purdue, and each time it is a sight to behold. Hitting three consecutive 3-pointers changed the trajectory of this game.

As he said after the game Tuesday night, “Shoot to get hot, shoot to stay hot. Just keep putting them up.” Walker can take this team to places no one else can.

With Carson Cooper suffering a low ankle sprain and not dressing Tuesday night, a lot was going to be asked of Mady Sissoko and Jaxon Kohler going against elite big man Trayce Jackson-Davis. Mady, along with the rest of the Spartans, started terribly. Once Walker brought the game within reach, however, Kohler came in and provided energy and life that was pivotal. Finishing with just four points, but seven rebounds, Kohler seemed to feed off the energy from the crowd, as did they of him. He was all over the court, in a good way. Being asked to match up against one of the best big men in the Big Ten is no easy task. Kohler was eager and ready to jump in.

In a strange way, it appeared that Kohler’s energy and performance even lit a fire in Mady Sissoko, who then came back in and was a monster, diving for lose balls and viciously spiking shots off Indiana players’ faces and into the third row.

Good: Rebounding

Michigan State was dominated on the glass against Michigan over the weekend. This was obviously a point of emphasis following that loss as MSU made it their mission to not be beaten on the boards on Tuesday against Indiana. While TJD still was able to collect his seven rebounds, all other Hoosiers were held in check. The Spartans held Indiana to just three offensive rebounds, eliminating any opportunity of second chance points.

Joey Hauser led the way for MSU with eight total rebounds, with Kohler right on his heels with seven. Having 10 offensive rebounds, MSU was able to put up double-digit second-chance points — a necessity in Big Ten matchups.

I would still like to see Sissoko, our starting center, collect a few more rebounds but as a team, the Spartans did a great job on the glass.

Bad: Transition offense

When your team starts as slow as the Spartans did, and could not buy a bucket to save their lives, the easiest way to break out is to get easy baskets in transition. You start on the defensive glass and push down the court for easy layups or open looks. Michigan State did not attack the glass to start the game, nor did they prioritize pushing down court. Indiana began the game with tremendous defense, and the Spartans’ half-court offense was non-existent.

Walker eventually broke out and saved the Spartans from their slow start, but it’s not viable to lean on a performance such as his on Tuesday night. Michigan State basketball needs to identify when the half-court offense isn’t running properly and adjust to focus on the transition game quicker to avoid double-digit deficits.

Ugly: Slow start

The poor transition offense, along with other, sluggish issues created another slow start for MSU. This, unfortunately, is something we have seen time and time again from this Spartan squad. Playing in a hostile environment and starting as the Spartans have many times this season will be too much to overcome a majority of the time.

Rather than hoping one player figures it out from deep, MSU and the coaching staff need to prioritize coming to play. Far too often this season, MSU’s games have been over in the first five minutes.


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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