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Michigan State Basketball: The great, good, bad, and ugly from BTT loss to Ohio State

Spoiler: there was a lot of ugly



Michigan State basketball
© Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan State basketball fell flat against Ohio State after earning the double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament.

Michigan State basketball fought the final few weeks of the season, got some help from other Big Ten teams, and was able to lock up the double-bye for the Big Ten Tournament. They were playing the best basketball of the year, and their matchup, Ohio State, was coming off their third game in as many days and was without its leading scorer, Brice Sensabaugh.

Michigan State should have cruised into the semis against Purdue. Yet that was far from the case.

Ohio State was playing to possibly make it into the NCAA Tournament, and Michigan State seemed to not want to play at all. The Spartans were flat and downright embarrassing. Offensively, their shots were not falling, which happens. But defensively, not a single player seemed as though they wanted to be there. Michigan State would give up their early lead at the 14-minute mark in the first half, and Ohio State never looked back.

The Spartans would eventually lose 68-58, ending any hope of making a Big Ten Tournament run.

Here are the great, good, bad, and ugly from Michigan State’s quarterfinals loss against Ohio State.

Great: Nothing

Rather than sit back and give kudos for some minute aspect of Michigan State’s game against Ohio State, it is genuinely more realistic to say nothing was done extremely well. During the first five minutes, the Spartans looked as they have for the last four to five games, but after that, they did not perform anything even close to great.

If we are going to give props where props are due, you have to do the same when the going isn’t as great.

Nothing MSU did in their first and only Big Ten Tournament game against Ohio State could be considered great. The only great aspect of the Spartans’ game on Friday is the belief that an early exit in the Big Ten Tournament leads to a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.

Good: Joey Hauser and Mady Sissoko

With nothing the Spartans did on Friday being considered great, Joey Hauser and Mady Sissoko were semi-bright spots. Hauser led the way for the Spartans with 15 points and six rebounds. While his, along with the rest of the Spartans, shooting was not great, Hauser was able to find his way to the free throw line quite often. Finishing the game 8-for-8 from the charity stripe, Hauser took advantage of an overly aggressive Buckeye defense.

Not only did Hauser’s free throw performance aid in the Spartans’ scoring during a game when scoring was hard to come by, but Hauser also began to get Ohio State in foul trouble. Already playing with a short bench, Joey did a great job drawing fouls and forcing Chris Holtmann to get creative with his bench.

It’s been said many times before that if you live by the three, you die by the three. And when you die by the three, you can only hope that others are able to pick up the slack. You knew that eventually, the Spartans’ offense would cool off, and it was up to the big men to step up for the guards. Mady Sissoko did an above-average job at doing just that. Finishing the game with 3-for-3 with six points is not a lot, but when shots aren’t falling elsewhere, Sissoko did his part to try and keep MSU afloat. His defense and post presence was felt against a smaller, younger OSU frontcourt.

Bad: A.J. Hoggard

This may be the most frustrating aspect of Michigan State’s loss on Friday. A.J. Hoggard, a junior leader of this team, has been knocked often this season for his subpar body language. Hoggard has the propensity to have a hard-nosed, in-your-face attitude when the Spartans are rolling, but when the going gets tough, Hoggard reacts in a less-than-ideal way. He seems to completely check out and reverts to sulking.

On Friday, Hoggard was essentially unplayable for the first half of the matchup, only beginning to assert his offensive prowess during the final 10 minutes or so. Even then, Hoggard continually was burned defensively against the younger, more inexperienced Roddy Gayle Jr.

After the game, a clip was released of Hoggard and Tom Izzo having an exchange in which A.J. seemed completely uninterested and almost annoyed at Izzo. It’s extremely disheartening to see a third-year leader react to the Hall of Famer’s coaching. While it is not exactly fair to single out a player like this, A.J. needs to realize that he is one of the few leaders on this team.

Michigan State basketball will only go as far as he takes them, and that is not a duty he can, nor should, take lightly.

Ugly: Bench production and coaching decisions

If you look at the box score from Friday’s game, a few things pop out at you. One is the extreme lack of production from the Spartan bench players.

Malik Hall, a one-time starter and senior captain, was horrendous, finishing with an abysmal -23 in the +/- category. Hall seemed out of sync and, quite frankly, lost all day. Beyond the sixth man’s struggles, Jaxon Kohler and Pierre Brooks both acted as momentum killers during their stints of game time.

Even with the bench’s struggles, Izzo and the staff seemed to continuously call on these players at the wrong times. As soon as the Spartans would begin a momentum shift and cut into the Buckeyes’ lead, MSU would make a line shift and put a halt to any sort of run. This is something that has plagued Izzo for a few years now and has burned the Spartans once again. Electing to go with a lineup featuring Pierre Brooks, Tre Holloman, and Jaxon Kohler all at once is not acceptable, especially in March.

In Izzo we trust, but this was a tough showing for him and his staff.


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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