Connect with us


Michigan State basketball: Key factors and a prediction vs. Iowa

This could turn into a shootout.



Michigan State basketball
© Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan State basketball will look to get back on track against Iowa on Thursday night. Here’s everything you need to know.

Michigan State basketball looks to get back in the win column on Thursday night as Fran McCaffery and the Iowa Hawkeyes visit the Breslin Center.

Here’s a look at the key factors in this game and a prediction.

Contrasting Styles

As usual, McCaffery’s Iowa teams like to get out and run. Per KenPom, Iowa plays at the fastest tempo in the Big Ten. Not only does Iowa play fast, but they play efficiently on offense without turning the ball over. This has translated into some high-scoring affairs. You have to go all the way back to Dec. 29 to find the last time Iowa scored fewer than 75 points.

Michigan State, on the other hand, would prefer a slower game. The Spartans rank outside the top 300 nationally in adjusted tempo according to KenPom. Unlike the Hawkeyes, the Spartans struggle to score for long stretches and rely on their defense to come up with stops. In the recent past, Tom Izzo’s teams have elected to play at Iowa’s pace. The Hawkeyes have scored 80 or more points in each of the last three meetings (all victories over MSU).

For as well as Iowa plays on offense, its pitiful defense almost negates its offensive prowess.

The Hawkeyes are by far the worst defensive team in the conference. They rank last in the Big Ten in defensive efficiency, effective field goal percentage, and opponent’s two-point field goal percentage. Iowa is also allowing conference opponents to shoot almost 40 percent from three-point range. It should be interesting to see how Tom Izzo and MSU want to take advantage of Iowa’s leaky defense without speeding up the game to their desired tempo.

Containing Kris Murray

A recent trend that has also been synonymous with Iowa basketball is a star player. Kris Murray is trying to become Iowa’s third Big Ten Player of the Year in the past four seasons.

Luka Garza won it twice, and Keegan Murray had a very strong argument last year but lost to Johnny Davis. While Kris isn’t quite the player Keegan was, at 6-foot-8 with scoring ability at all three levels, he is still a nightmare to defend. Penn State and Duke have been the only two teams to hold him under 20 points this season. Murray is a tough assignment for anyone, but it should be especially difficult for MSU given its personnel.

Under normal circumstances, Malik Hall would be the obvious choice to defend Murray. However, given that Hall remains out with a foot injury, Joey Hauser will likely draw the assignment. Given Hauser’s struggles defensively in the past, along with how much Michigan State basketball needs him offensively, this figures to favor Iowa substantially. Couple that with how much MSU relies on Hauser for rebounding, and the problem becomes more concerning.

Other high-caliber players such as Zach Edey and Trayce Jackson-Davis 30-pieced the Spartans with relative ease last week on their way to victory. That can’t happen again for Michigan State. The potential name to watch for is sophomore Pierre Brooks who has struggled mightily on offense lately, but this could be a great opportunity for him to get out of Izzo’s doghouse. He is a little undersized from a length standpoint, but he has the strength to handle Murray in the paint and the quickness to stick with him on the perimeter.

The Spartans aren’t going to shut Murray down, but if they can bother him just enough to make him an inefficient scorer, their chances of winning increase exponentially.

Which Mady Sissoko shows up?

After consecutive games against Edey, Cliff Omoruyi, and Jackson-Davis, Mady Sissoko is probably ready for some lighter competition. But this is the Big Ten, and more teams than not are going to have an effective center.

For Iowa, that guy is Filip Rebraca.

While he may not get as much attention as the first three guys mentioned, the fifth-year senior is enjoying a career season with 13.4 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. After spending his first three seasons at North Dakota, Rebraca was a reserve player for Iowa last year. This year, he is a vital piece of the team.

At 6-foot-9, he leads Iowa in minutes played, field goal percentage, rebounds, and blocked shots. Rebraca doesn’t take many 3-pointers because Iowa has more capable shooters, but he isn’t afraid to play on the perimeter within the offense. MSU will need a focused, controlled effort from Sissoko on both ends of the court. Keeping Iowa off the offensive boards will be key to limiting their possessions.

On the other end of the court, getting Rebraca into foul trouble would be massive. With Patrick McCaffery’s status in question, Iowa’s depth is a great concern – especially in the frontcourt.

It’s been an up-and-down season for Sissoko. After such a strong start, he has regressed more towards the player we saw last year. The competition as of late surely has something to do with that. MSU has to hope it gets the guy from early in the season back. Thursday would be a great place to start.


The projected line for this game is Michigan State basketball -3. That feels about right.

Iowa has the best overall player. Michigan State is at home, where it usually shoots better and has the crowd behind it. The spot favors Michigan State.

The Spartans have lost three out of four and have their most difficult game of the season on deck Sunday at No. 1 Purdue. This game at home against Iowa becomes critical to avoid losing five out of six. Given those facts, this line will probably move a little bit toward Michigan State. I wouldn’t endorse laying more than a possession with this MSU team. Instead, I’d look at the total. The projected total is 147. I’d look at the over. MSU is typically more than willing to run with Iowa.

The Hawkeyes last played Saturday, and MSU played on Sunday. Both teams will be rested. Without Hall, I just don’t see how MSU keeps Murray under 25 points. With MSU at home, they should have success shooting the three against an Iowa team that doesn’t defend it well.

Prediction: Michigan State 80, Iowa 77


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.

Continue Reading


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.

Continue Reading


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.

Continue Reading