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Michigan State basketball is still a legit contender without Malik Hall

With or without Malik Hall, the Spartans are going to be a problem.



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

Even without Malik Hall, Michigan State basketball is looking like one of the best teams in the Big Ten. The sky is the limit.

Michigan State basketball rebounded from two straight losses with a big win over No. 23 Rutgers at home on Thursday night. With the win, the Spartans improved to 13-6 on the year. And it takes them to 5-3 in the Big Ten.

Just how good is this Michigan State team and how good can they be come March? A lot of this team’s potential lies with the health of Malik Hall. When Hall has been fully healthy, the Spartans have put together a 6-1 record. Without Hall in the lineup, the Spartans are just 7-5.

Looking at that alone some may assume this team isn’t very good without Hall. And early in the season when we saw back-to-back losses to Northwestern and Notre Dame, that appeared to be the case.

But this team has improved a lot since then, both with and without Hall in the lineup. Hall was out of the lineup in the Spartans’ previous game against Purdue. And while the end result may not have been the one everyone wanted, Michigan State took No. 3 Purdue down to the wire before losing on a Zach Edey shot in the final few seconds of the game.

Then we have Thursday’s game against No. 23 Rutgers. Hall is still out of the lineup and will likely be out for a couple of weeks at least the Spartans took care of business at home and beat a really good Rutgers team.

Tyson Walker has emerged as this team’s go-to player when they need a bucket. Against Purdue, he scored a career-high 30 and it seemed like there was no one in the world that could stop him from scoring down the stretch. Walker has become the player we all hoped we were getting from Northeastern last year. He’s always had the talent, but this year he’s playing with the confidence he lacked last season.

Then we have AJ Hoggard. His elite passing and larger frame at the point guard position allows him to post up and use his size on smaller guards. This season, however, he’s developed a jump shot, which has taken his game to a whole other level.

Walker and Hoggard are the best guard duo in the Big Ten, and I don’t think it’s that close. Both have been playing at an elite level this season and they’ve done it in different ways, which presents a matchup nightmare for most teams.

There’s no denying the backcourt of this Spartan team is its greatest strength. But the players around them are also improving as this season progresses. This team, to me, has a special feeling about it. A feeling I haven’t felt since the great Cassius Winston played his last game in the green and white.

Michigan State may only be 13-6, but I think we’re better than our record shows.

So just how good can this Michigan State team be? I think it may have a Final Four run in them by the time March comes around if Hall is healthy. But even if he’s not, these Spartans are starting to show they can still play at an elite level.


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