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Michigan State basketball: The great, good, bad, and ugly from infuriating Iowa loss

We all know what the ugly was.



Michigan State basketball
© Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

After leading by 13 with just 1:34 remaining, Michigan State basketball surrender five straight threes as Iowa steals a win.

Few games are as frustrating and aggravating than the one Michigan State basketball had on Saturday at Iowa. The Spartans traveled to Iowa City and absolutely lit it up from the field, shooting 73.3 percent from deep, and almost 60 percent from the floor.

Turnovers plagued the Spartans during the first half, but once these were cleaned up, Michigan State took a commanding 13-point lead as the game neared it’s end.

Unfortunately for MSU, Iowa had a final two minute stretch not likely to be seen again. As the Hawkeyes prolonged the game by intentionally fouling, they suddenly were red hot from three. Eventually hitting five 3-pointers, Michigan State essentially was stuck trading two point free throws for 3-pointers. After not being able to get a stop, the lead was cut to just three points with 10 seconds left. A.J. Hoggard was at the free throw line, sitting at 11-for-11 from the line, when he missed possibly the most important one. Iowa stormed down the floor, and drilled yet another three to send the game into overtime.

While Iowa did go away with the three-point game in overtime, the momentum and energy had already swung and MSU didn’t stand a chance. Tony Perkins and Kris Murray would score 10 out of the 11 points in overtime and Michigan State was left wondering what just happened.

While there were some great signs such as Jaden Akins and Tyson Walker both having great games, Michigan State still squandered an opportunity to jump in the Big Ten standings.

Here are the great, good, bad, and ugly from MSU’s loss against the Hawkeyes.

Great: 3-point shooting

The Spartans have gotten hot from three this season before. While it is normally one or two at a time, it has happened and can change this team dramatically.

On Saturday afternoon, it seemed as though every Spartan was feeling it from deep. Joey Hauser went 4-for-4 from three, Jaden Akins, celebrating his 20th birthday, also went 4-for-4, and Tyson Walker went 2-for-3. Add in Hoggard’s 1-for-2, and the Spartans would shoot an incredible 73 percent from 3-point range.

Being as red hot from deep as Michigan State basketball was is normally the cultivation of multiple things being done right. Moving with and without the ball to get open, rebounding, and trusting your shot all add up to get hot from deep and the Spartans did all of those extremely well. Unfortunately, over the final two minutes, Michigan State’s offense was relegated to just free throw shooting thanks to the intentional fouling from the Hawkeyes, eliminating any chance at responding with a three point dagger.

The rarity of shooting almost 75 percent from three while still losing cannot be understated.

Good: Free throws

A repeated issue this season, the Spartans have had a difficult time getting to the free throw line. This was not the case on Saturday in Iowa City. Michigan State had 36 shots from the charity stripe, sinking 31 of those attempts. Granted, a large sum of their free throw attempts came in the final two minutes as Iowa attempted to prolong the game, 36 attempts is a great number to be at.

Hoggard led the way, finishing 12-for-14, and second was Tyson Walker with 7-for-8. Michigan State, as a team, finished at 86 percent from the line, a mark that is extremely promising.

Getting to the line as much as MSU did on Saturday is going to be crucial in the tournament. As it has been mentioned many times before, capitalizing on the free attempts is important enough, but putting pressure on opposing teams and coaching staffs due to foul trouble will add another element to help this Spartan team make it even further come March. MSU did a great job doing just that against Iowa with Filip Rebraca.

Bad: First-half turnovers

Michigan State finished the game on Saturday with 15 turnovers, four more than their season average of 11.1 per game. Nine of those 15 came in the first 20 minutes of the matchup. As already mentioned, Michigan State was controlling much of the first half, yet Iowa was able to stick around due to the large number of turnovers. Malik Hall and Hoggard led the Spartans with three and four turnovers, respectively.

Having nine turnovers in the first half alone can lead you to two different thought processes. If the Spartans hadn’t been red hot from the field, this possibly could have been a much uglier game for MSU.

On the other hand, had MSU taken care of the ball better, a complete blow out was likely in store for the Hawkeyes. Both of which are probably true. Michigan State did a much better job handling the ball during the second half, outside the travel turnover by Malik Hall with just 37 seconds remaining, sparking Iowa’s 3-point storm. This season has seen a much better turnover team than previous Tom Izzo-led squads.

Michigan State basketball will need to return back to form moving into the Big Ten tournament and March Madness.

Ugly: Defense down the stretch

Michigan State did a good job for the majority of their game on Saturday to limit the Hawkeyes offense. Iowa shoots the ball extremely well at home, and Michigan State held them at 76 with just two minutes remaining. While it is more than their average allowed this season, MSU did a good job keeping the Hawkeyes from getting going. That was, until the final 1:30.

According to the NCAA, only three teams in college basketball history had won when down by 11 points in the final minute of regulation before Saturday, the last coming in 2016. MSU can now be added to the opponents of that list. The final two minutes were filled with failed rebounds, second chance opportunities for Iowa, missed switches on defense, and a lack of close outs.

Whether or not MSU should have fouled on the final possession is a discussion for another time, but you cannot get let Iowa get such clean looks from three. Izzo mentioned after the game that Michigan State gave up 15 offensive rebounds and 29 second-chance points as factors that left the door open for Iowa to come back.

Credit to Iowa for nailing clutch, unlikely 3-pointer after 3-pointer, but Michigan State’s defense allowed the final two minutes to become a reality.


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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