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Michigan State Basketball: The great, good, bad, ugly from lifeless loss to Rutgers

Yes, there was actually good and great in this loss.



Michigan State basketball
© Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK

Here are the great, good, bad, and ugly from the extremely disappointing Michigan State basketball loss Saturday afternoon.

Playing at one of the most famous venues in the country, Michigan State basketball fell flat against Rutgers, dropping their second game in a row. Saturday’s matchup proved to be quite the rock fight as neither team could get any offensive momentum. While this was expected based on the above average defense from both the Spartans and Scarlet Knights this season, the intense lack of offense was still somewhat shocking.

With just over nine minutes remaining in the first half, Rutgers held a 9-8 point lead over Michigan State. Over the last eight minutes, however, Michigan State was able to grind out some good offensive looks and would head into halftime with a 25-19 lead.

Unfortunately for the Spartans, their offensive struggles continued into the second half while Rutgers began hitting their stride. Fueled by both a 7-0 run as well as a 9-0 run, the Scarlet Knights were able to overcome their poor shooting from both the free throw line and the field to put Michigan State away. MSU finished the day shooting 34 percent from the field, with just 19 percent from deep.

Up and down the roster, it appeared as if Michigan State basketball was unfocused and disengaged offensively. Even with having the week off, Michigan State did not come ready to play.

Now sitting 4.5 games behind in the Big Ten, MSU will have to quickly pick up the pieces before welcoming Maryland on Tuesday.

Here are the great, good, bad and ugly from the extremely disappointing loss Saturday afternoon.

Great: Rebounding

After a lifeless performance such as the one the Spartans had Saturday afternoon, it can be difficult to identify an aspect in which MSU did well. In this case, however, Michigan State did a fantastic job rebounding and clearing the glass against Rutgers. Going into the matchup, the Scarlet Knights were outrebounding opponents by 4.8 rebounds per game, while MSU sat more than a rebound less per game with 3.4 boards.

To say the Spartans have lost their identity this season when it comes to rebounds would be fair. Against Rutgers, however, Michigan State bested Rutgers’ 34 rebounds by 10 more boards, finishing with 44. Malik Hall took it upon himself to grab every rebound available, finishing the day with a whopping 13 boards. MSU’s next closest were Joey Hauser and Mady Sissoko with five each. In such a slow paced game, controlling the glass will often lead to a victory.

Unfortunately, even with their dominance on the boards, Michigan State still fell flat. Had they not put forth the effort rebounding, the score would have been even more lopsided.

Good: Defense

As previously mentioned, it was known this would be a defensive battle. Rutgers currently sits with the best defense in the Big Ten, allowing just 59 points per game. With that being said, it was MSU who set the tone defensively when they met in January. When the two played at the Breslin, the Spartans held Rutgers to just 34 percent from the field and 11 percent from deep, eventually getting the victory. For Saturday’s matchup, Michigan State did more of the same, defensively.

During the first half, Rutgers was held to under 20 points. Keeping the Scarlet Knights leading scorers in check, Michigan State was able to overcome their offensive inefficiencies to grab a first half lead. MSU’s defense began to slip in the second half, with Rutgers’ Paul Mulcahy and Cliff Omoruyi eventually finding their groove. With that being said, the Spartans were still able to limit the Knights to 37 percent from the field and just 18 percent from three.

In a matchup in which MSU isn’t so lackluster offensively, their defensive performance would lead to a victory.

Bad: Untimely Turnovers

When looking at the final stats from Michigan State’s game at the Garden, MSU finished with 14 turnovers. A.J. Hoggard finished the game tied for his season high with five turnovers, while Malik Hall had three. Fourteen turnovers is more than their 11.2 turnovers per game, but what was more impactful was the timing of the turnovers.

Half of their team turnovers came in the second half. When MSU was up by three with just over eight minutes remaining, they had back to back turnovers from Hall and then Hoggard. Using these wasted possessions and another turnover by Hauser at the 5:30 mark, the Scarlet Knights launched a 9-0 run and never looked back.

You have to give credit to the number one defense in the Big Ten for forcing 14 turnovers in one game. If you are the Spartans, you cannot give the ball away so often, so late in the game, especially when points are so hard to come by.

Ugly: Offensive Production

To say the Spartan’s offensive production on Saturday afternoon was ugly would be an understatement. Other than 12 points from Tyson Walker and 10 points from Hauser, there were no other Spartans scoring in double figures. From the field, MSU averages over 44 percent on the season to go along with almost 37 percent from 3-point range.

At Madison Square Garden on Saturday, Michigan State was shooting just 34% from the field, and 19 percent from deep. That’s a far cry from average and what should be considered acceptable.

To go along with the poor shooting and untimely turnovers as already discussed, there was an apparent lack of urgency and no one available to take over when a bucket was needed. There were stretches of game in which Michigan State’s offensive production was non-existent and yet, there was no superstar to take over and pull the Spartans out of the slump. This isn’t a new development for Michigan State basketball, but on Saturday, fans saw first hand how not having that guy can easily be a team’s downfall.


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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