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Michigan State Basketball: The great, good, bad, and ugly from Senior Day win against Ohio State

Offense? Great. Defense? Ugly.



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

The Michigan State basketball offense pops once again, as the Spartans beat Ohio State at home for Senior Day, 84-78.

Senior Day for Michigan State basketball on Saturday led to possibly the best 30 minutes, or so, of hoops for the Spartans this season.

Michigan State came out of the gate against the Buckeyes hot, scoring 15 straight points early in the first half to take a demanding double digit lead at home. Thanks to eight 3-pointers, MSU would finish the first half with 43, the most first half points this season for the Spartans.

However, as good as their first half was, Michigan State began to let Ohio State back into the game during the second half thanks to an inefficient, porous defense once again. OSU would pull to within three with 5:39 remaining after a Bruce Thornton 3-pointer. From that point on, the Spartans tightened up their defense, not allowing a basket for the next three minutes.

Michigan State would eventually claim a 84-78 victory over the Buckeyes to move into a seven-way tie for second place in the Big Ten.

Here are the great, good, bad, and ugly from the Senior Day win for Michigan State basketball.

Great: Guard offense

The mid-season turnaround for this offense, specifically guard-led, continued Saturday as the Spartan guards and forwards went on another tear. Because it was Senior Day, Malik Hall and Jason Whitens got the start over the likes of Jaden Akins and Mady Sissoko. While Whitens was pulled out relatively quickly for Akins, Malik would stick around and found himself finishing with 28 minutes — 28 minutes marks Hall’s most in regulation this season since November against Gonzaga.

Hall, along with the other the guards and forwards, MSU continued its hot offensive streak, shooting 60 percent from three. All starters finished in double figures, and even freshman Tre Holloman got in on the 3-point fun.

Once they are able to get going, Michigan State is deadly from deep. At exactly the right time, this Spartan offense is peaking.

Good: A.J. Hoggard

While it was reported last week that Izzo would like to see A.J. Hoggard shoot less, I don’t think Tom is upset with Hoggard’s performance over the last few games.

Just days after his 10-point, 14-assist performance against Nebraska, Hoggard finished Saturday tying his career high with 23 points, seven assists and only one turnover. The Spartan offense is firing on all cylinders for many reasons, and Hoggard is absolutely one of them. A.J. is finding his teammates for open looks while also being smart with the basketball. He’s now fourth in the Big Ten in assist-to-turnover ratio with a staggering 2.45.

One knock on Hoggard this season was his propensity to disappear for games at a time. As long as A.J. can continue to be present, cool, calm, and collected over the next few weeks, Michigan State will be poised to make quite the run.

Bad: Post Offense

Michigan State’s offense is playing great. Their three point shooting is elite. With that being said, the Spartan’s post presence is non-existent, as it has been all season. The talent from MSU’s guards and forwards limits the immediate need for a dominant center, but even an average big man would take tremendous pressure off the likes of Hall, Walker, Akins and Hauser.

Living and dying by the three will only work in your favor for so long. If Michigan State has a down day shooting, they will need the post play to pick them up and take on the load offensively.

Nebraska provided the script on how to beat the Spartans last week. If opposing teams are able to run MSU off the three point line, disrupt their shooting, and make the Spartans uncomfortable, they can control the matchup. Teams will absolutely key in on this, and MSU must be ready to adjust their gameplay.

It’s clear that the Spartans want to live at the three point line, and why shouldn’t they. With their talent from deep, there is no need for any Spartan big man to score in double figures, but having a go-to down low when shots are not falling will be vital in the tournament.

Ugly: Defense

This has become somewhat of a copy and paste after each Spartan game. We’ve seen their defense decline week by week for a month now. What is most disappointing and, quite frankly, frustrating is that MSU was on pace to be one of the better defensive teams under Tom Izzo. They were particularly locked down on the perimeter against opponents, being top three in the Big Ten at doing so. Since the emergence of their offense, MSU has seemed to focus all attention on scoring and casting defense to the wayside. This came back to hurt the Spartans against Iowa, and we began to see a similar comeback on Saturday against Ohio State.

As mentioned, MSU began to let off the gas during the second half. After amassing an eleven point lead, Michigan State slowly let OSU gain momentum. They would start the second half connecting on four of their first five shots. Eventually becoming a three point game, MSU allowed freshmen guards/forwards Brice Sensabaugh and Bruce Thornton to get hot. While it wasn’t enough for a full Ohio State comeback, the two would finish with 21 and 20, respectively.

Michigan State cannot continue to play with fire while closing out games. They have the defensive ability, they just have to channel it.


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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