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Michigan State Basketball: Report card for second quarter of 2022-23 season

The second quarter of the season tested these Spartans with injuries and two bad losses.



Michigan State basketball
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

After a treacherous first quarter of the season, Michigan State basketball spent most of the second quarter getting healthy.

Michigan State basketball fared well throughout the second quarter of the 2022-23 season. Immediately following a difficult loss against Northwestern, the Spartans traveled to University Park and took care of business against Penn State for their second Big Ten game of the year.

Michigan State then went through a lighter stretch of opponents, going head to head across multiple different leagues. Against the Ivy League, the MAC, and the Horizon league, along with a few Big Ten teams towards the end, MSU finished with a record of 7-1 across December and through the first 10 days of January.

The trio of games that were Brown, Oakland, and Buffalo allowed Tom Izzo and company to weather the injury storm from the extremely difficult first quarter of the season. Finishing the second quarter with wins against Nebraska, Michigan, and a thriller against Wisconsin on Tuesday night held much more weight, and sets the Spartans up tremendously for the upcoming dog days of Big Ten play.

So, here are grades for each positional group from the second quarter of the Michigan State basketball season.

Guards: A

In what has easily been the strength of this team, the guard play has been fantastic this season thus far. In just the second quarter of the season alone, the combination of A.J. Hoggard, Tyson Walker, and Jaden Akins have averaged 34.35 points per game.

Scoring 69.5 as a team throughout this stretch, the guards are accounting for roughly 49 percent of Michigan State’s points. When points have been needed, it is our guards who have stepped up and pulled through. Guard play is priceless in March and will take this team beyond where originally expected. The only question is whether or not they can do it alone.

Outside of the starting trio, MSU’s guards have played somewhat sparingly. Pierre Brooks and Tre Holloman each have logged an average of 16 and 10 minutes, respectively. While these minutes have provided confidence and experience, neither have scored at a consistent rate enough to make an impact. Brooks has shown he has the ability to average 7-8 points per game off the bench, but sits at just 4.75 points. Providing more scoring off the bench from Brooks and Holloman can take this guard unit into the upper most tier in the Big Ten.

Forwards: B

Michigan State’s forward play took a major hit when, during the first quarter of the season, senior forward Malik Hall went down. Malik is more than just a captain, he gives the Spartans a versatile, experienced starter when healthy. Once returning to the rotation midway through this second quarter of the season, Hall was able to jump back in with little hesitancy, averaging almost 10 points per game since his return.

The Spartans’ only other forwards on roster are Joey Hauser and Jaxon Kohler. Hauser has been an offensive leader throughout this stretch of the season, scoring in double figures in seven out of eight games, and leading our team in scoring in four out of eight of those matchups. Outside of the Michigan game in which Hauser was extremely off, Joey is knocking down 3-pointers at a rate of 36 percent.

The combination of these two forwards should take pressure off our guards, if they can stay healthy, that is.

Centers: C

During the first quarter of the season, Mady Sissoko had a coming out party. Putting out great performances over the first couple of games, Sissoko seemed to be a force in the Big Ten.

Unfortunately, it seems as though water has found it’s level. Sissoko has averaged 4.6 points per game to go along with just 8.3 rebounds. While it is not expected to have the three year big man average 15-plus points, having him closer to 8-10 points per game would open the court up tremendously for the Spartan wings and guards.

Jaxon Kohler is on roster as a forward, but Tom Izzo and Co. have decided to use him in reserve of Sissoko instead. Whatever athleticism Kohler lacks in comparison to Sissoko, he makes up for in offensive touch. With each game, you can watch Jaxon become more comfortable. While he still needs to work on his defense and his offensive skill set directly below the rim, he has proven he can knock down shots away from the basket along the exterior of the paint.

There isn’t much more to ask for from the big man out of Utah.

Coaching: A-

Michigan State’s thrilling win against Kentucky in November included set plays, drawn up by Izzo and his assistants, that forced me to give the coaching an A for the first quarter of the season. For this past second quarter, Michigan State did not find themselves in such a situation, but the Spartans’ coaching should get no complaints.

While dealing with a number of injuries, the coaching staff did a good job weathering the storm, going to players such as Tre Holloman, Pierre Brooks, Carson Cooper, and Jason Whitens more often. The two former should see more time regardless, Cooper and Whitens did just enough to get by and, as players began to return from injury, were downgraded back to a reserve/bench role. It may have not been pretty over these few games, the experience gained from these players will come in handy come March. Cooper has already shown growth from this time, as seen in the win against Wisconsin.

The only grievance from the Spartan staff was on Dec. 21 against the in-state Oakland Grizzlies. Despite only holding a five-point lead at half time, Brooks had not seen any court time. As fans questioned what the reason may have been as to why Whitens had taken most of Pierre’s first-half minutes, Izzo clarified after the game that Brooks had been late to multiple meetings throughout the week and was sitting in punishment. While not ideal, understandable.

Overall: A-

After such a difficult stretch of games to begin the season, Michigan State has used the second quarter to work through their injuries, and even get invaluable experience to would-be bench players when given a healthy rotation.

Towards the end of the second quarter stretch, the rotation eventually did get healthy, and fans got a glimpse of what can be. When given appropriate time to heal and to practice, it was reported in mid-December that the Spartans were set to have one of their first practices since the season tipped off, this team can compete for a Big Ten banner, as they currently sit tied with Purdue at first in the conference.

With that being said, we will learn a lot about Michigan State basketball in the third quarter of the season, as it will be the heart of Big Ten play. If the Spartans can stay healthy throughout this next stretch, the rest of the Big Ten better be put on notice.


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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