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Michigan State Basketball: The great, good, bad, ugly from Wisconsin win

MSU owned the final nine minutes to beat Wisconsin on the road.



Michigan State basketball
© Dale Young-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan State basketball picks up a Quad 1 win with victory over No. 18 Wisconsin in Madison on Tuesday night.

After starting the season 5-4, Michigan State basketball has now won seven in a row, giving it an overall record of 12-4. While this run was somewhat expected simply due to the immense difficulty their season started with, it has not been easy.

This was the case, once again, in Madison on Tuesday night.

The Spartans jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the first minute, when Wisconsin began to heat up from deep to bring the game back to even. the first half was mostly spent trading leads, Michigan State being on top 33-31 at the end of the first half.

The Badgers used big performances from Cody Essegian, Steven Crowl, and Chucky Hepburn to help give them their largest lead of the night of five points with just under four minutes remaining. However, the Spartan leaders took over from that point on, starting with a Malik Hall layup, and a Joey Hauser 3-pointer to retake the lead for the final time.

Michigan State finished the final six minutes on a 17- 8 run to improve to 4-1 in conference play, once again tied for first in the Big Ten.

Here are the great, good, bad, and ugly from Michigan State basketball’s seventh win in a row.

Great: Spartan’s play down the stretch

As mentioned above, twice in the second half Wisconsin matched their game high lead at five. Once, at the 5:48 mark, and again a minute later, at the 4:14 point. At the Kohl Center, especially with how Wisconsin shoots the three-ball, going down by half a dozen can mean the end for an opposing team. Michigan State, however, kept their cool down the stretch.

After a slow, almost non-existent first half, A.J. Hoggard demanded he have the ball in his hands for the final few minutes and, whether he attacked the basket himself, or set something up for Malik Hall, Joey Hauser, or Tyson Walker, he got the job done. Hoggard finished with six of the Spartans’ last eight points.

This is normally quite the opposite for Michigan State teams. In this season especially, the Spartans have a hard time making the plays to close games out but Tuesday night, they did everything right down the line. Even going 16-for-17 from the free throw line to put the game on ice.

Twenty-three points over 14 possessions in the final nine minutes equates to 1.64 points per possession. That is elite efficiency to finish the game.

Good: Carson Cooper

In a game in which Wisconsin was missing its leading scorer, a wing player, the Badgers’ Steven Crowl had to step up tremendously. He did just that against Michigan State, posting a team-high 19 points for Wisconsin. Mady Sissoko did the best he could on defense, but after needing five stitches from an elbow to the face, Carson Cooper was elected to stand in.

Cooper ended up doing more than just stand in. While Crowl’s stats did not indicate he was stopped very often, the eye test told you that Cooper did an above average job stopping the Wisconsin big man.

On top of his defense, Cooper had two rebounds, one steal, and two blocks down the stretch. From a freshman who has played very sparingly, this was a good outing for the young man.

Bad: Defense

A major reason to the recent seven-game winning streak for the Spartans has been their defense. Holding teams to just under 58 points per game over this stretch would be second in the Big Ten in average points allowed per game. MSU began its game in Madison continuing this trend for the first few minutes, but eventually, Wisconsin found the shots they wanted. Improving to 39 percent from deep and 45.5 percent total, the Badgers did not find much difficulty scoring.

During the second half, it seemed that Wisconsin had a perfect game plan against Sissoko as he was absolutely unable to return back to his man after a high key pick and roll. Repeatedly, they were able to drop the ball down low as Mady trailed behind, or, if help was provided by one of Michigan State’s wing players, they kicked out and a subsequent 3-pointer was imminent. The Spartans caught a break when Chucky Hepburn took an ill-advised heat check deep three as the game came to an end, bailing the MSU defense out quite a bit.

Walker did a good job eliminating Connor Essegian for much of the second half, but the defense will need to be improved if their winning streak is to continue.

Ugly: Turnovers

Because of the somewhat slower pace that this Spartans team has played with, the turnovers this season have been limited compared to past Izzo-led teams. That, however, was not the case Tuesday night against Wisconsin. Turnovers for the Spartans were found aplenty, finishing at 14 for the game. Their season average now sits at 11.2 per game. Not only did this increased number disrupt the offensive flow for MSU, Wisconsin took full advantage of the Spartans’ carelessness, finishing with 27 points off turnovers.

Limiting the turnovers to even their season average completely changes the game. Michigan State basketball did a fantastic job rebounding the ball, almost doubling Wisconsin’s 18 rebounds at 33, they just had a difficult time holding onto the rock there after.


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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