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Michigan State basketball: The great, good, bad, and ugly from Kentucky win

MSU “recaptured its culture” in a win over Kentucky.



Michigan State basketball
© Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan State basketball pulls away from Coach Cal and No. 4 Kentucky in an absolute thriller. Here’s your great, good, bad, and ugly.

Tuesday’s Michigan State basketball game against Kentucky was similar to last week against Gonzaga, yet different. Against Gonzaga, the Spartans gave the game away. They had the Zags on the ropes, up a dozen, yet Drew Timme and Co. stormed back. This first Championship Classic game was different in that it was dead even from the start.

If anything, Kentucky had a slight pull away a few times that the Spartans had to battle back from. And that is exactly what they did. It was announced shortly before tip-off that big Oscar Tshiebwe was going to play. The reigning National Player of the Year had yet to make his season debut, and suddenly, Mady Sissoko had his hands full. It seems that Tom and Co. decided to almost let Oscar have his success, and make others beat us, as the Spartans held the Wildcats’ guards Antonio Reeves and CJ Fredricks to just five points a piece.

For the Spartans offensively, the combination of Joey Hauser, and Malik Hall powered us to overtime (and double overtime). Once there, Tyson Walker took over, scoring nine of his 14 points in overtime.

Taking it to Big Blue is always special, but here are the great, good, bad, and ugly from Michigan State basketball’s incredible win.

Great: Joey Hauser, Tyson Walker, and Malik Hall

If anyone can figure out what makes Joey Hauser tick, please let Tom Izzo know so he can be sure to rile him up before each game. Joey’s stat lines from this season thus far:

Northern Arizona – 18 points and 10 rebounds
Gonzaga – 2 points and 1 rebound
Kentucky – 23 points and 8 rebounds

Nothing says inconsistent more than those stat lines. However, tonight, Hauser was brilliant. Leading the Spartans in scoring and, more importantly, when we needed a point to stop the bleeding, he was one of the few who were able to do so — 57 percent from three, while also adding eight rebounds is a star performance.

As mentioned, Tyson absolutely took over overtime. It was the Mady and Tyson show for overtime and double overtime. Knocking down threes when needed, more importantly, the moment Tshiebwe fouled out, Tyson made it his mission to find Sissoko for as many alley ops as possible. It was apparent AJ just didn’t have it today so it was imperative that Tyson step up.

Another great game for OKG (Our Kinda Guy) Malik Hall. There is a reason Izzo coined this name for him as he just has so much potential to help this team. 20 points, while shooting 33 percent from three, and almost 64% from two is exactly what was needed from an OKG. Hall quite literally sent us to overtime with his last second dunk and throughout OT and 2OT, he looked in control.

Good: Mady Sissoko’s defense

As I mentioned, as soon as Oscar was announced to be playing, Michigan States game plan changed. Mady has the physical ability to stick with Tshiebwe, but a talented big like he is will cause even the most level headed defender to foul out just to match the intensity. While Oscar spent the first half still getting his court legs after making his season debut, Mady did a great job containing the Wildcat big man while limiting fouls.

The second half was a different story, but that went both ways as both big men were in danger of fouling out, Oscar eventually doing so. Oscar got his points and rebounds, but having Mady for overtime was so much more crucial. As a side note, Michigan State doesn’t win this game if Mady doesn’t hit his free throws — 75 percent from the charity line, down the stretch, from a big man is elite.

Bad: AJ Hoggard’s ball-handling

AJ Hoggard just did not have it today. He looked out of control when pushing the ball, had a hard time finding his teammates, and came up limping more than once. Ironic because just last week it was mentioned how comfortable Hoggard looked while bringing the ball up. He had five turnovers tonight, but seemed much more lost than that. Luckily, Tyson stepped up, but, Hoggard needs a break. It’s a long season, and he has had a great start thus far. Possibly coming off the bench once or twice might give him the rest he needs.

Ugly: Nothing

To beat another blue blood program, you have to be great. Tonight, against Kentucky, Michigan State basketball did just that. Finishing a game by outscoring the No. 4 team in the country 13-1 is a hell of a way to finish. Everyone, even the assistant coaches, who were credited with coming up with the unique trick play when passing the ball in toward the end of the game, deserve credit.

As Izzo said in the postgame press conference, “This is special – we feel like we got to recapture our culture”.


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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