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Michigan State basketball: 3 key factors and a prediction at Purdue

Michigan State hasn’t won at Mackey since 2014.



Michigan State basketball
© Dale Young-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan State basketball will be traveling to Mackey Arena to face the No. 1 team in the country on Sunday afternoon.

It may be Championship Sunday in the NFL, but Purdue and Michigan State basketball will provide a nice appetizer to football. Round one went to Purdue on Jan. 16th.

Let’s discuss the keys to the game and how round two might look.

1. Zach Edey

It’s impossible to talk about Purdue basketball without mentioning Zach Edey. The consensus favorite for national player of the year, Edey presents a giant (literally and figuratively) problem for opponents.

My memory of college basketball goes back to around the year 2000. Edey makes the shortlist for the most unstoppable offensive players I’ve ever seen during that timeframe. If he gets the ball with position in the post, you’re just praying that he misses. At 7-foot-4, there just isn’t much you can do if you’re guarding him one-on-one.

Michigan State got the full Edey experience in the first matchup — 32 points, 17 rebounds, and a game-winning layup in the waning seconds that could not have looked easier. He presents a problem for Michigan State because he can exploit the weakest part of this MSU roster: the frontcourt. The Spartans don’t have the size, depth, or experience to slow down a player like Edey. Tom Izzo knew this and seemed to be deploying a strategy to let Edey get his and have nobody else beat them.

It almost worked.

Edey took 26 of the Boilermakers’ 42 two-point attempts, converting on half of them. Nobody else for Purdue took more than six shots. I would expect Izzo and the Spartans to run their game plan back Sunday in West Lafayette. Michigan State doesn’t stray too much from their straight man-to-man defense. Izzo has always been stubborn to consistently double-team a dominant big man. Given the fact that Purdue will be more comfortable shooting at home, I don’t think MSU wants to give up too many open looks from three. My guess is Michigan State basketball will think about Edey as a dominant pitcher in baseball. The first couple of times that you see him, it can be overwhelming. But as you get more looks at what he has to offer, you can start to pick up on some tendencies.

The first matchup was only 13 days ago. MSU should have its scouting and prep fresh in its mind. The Spartans got plenty of looks at what he wants to do (26 shot attempts). If MSU has any chance at pulling off the upset, they’ll have to bother Edey a little more than they did in East Lansing.

As is the case with any great player, stopping them is unlikely. Making them inefficient and uncomfortable is often enough to get the job done.

2. Malik Hall

For Michigan State, there may be no bigger difference between Jan. 16 and now than the presence of Malik Hall. In games that Hall starts and finishes, Michigan State is 8-1. He was key in slowing down Kris Murray for Iowa and has been huge for MSU’s defense as a whole all season.

Hall’s presence seems to loom larger than his individual performance. He has the impact of a star safety or linebacker on a football defense that communicates in ways that others can’t. Offensively, he’s a significant boost as well. He has a terrific array of moves to create shots in the paint for a team that can struggle to sustain offensive efficiency. Hall has also developed into a solid facilitator on the perimeter and a capable shooter from three. He’ll also be a big addition on the glass.

Caleb Furst, in particular, killed the Spartans 13 days ago with his effort rebounding. He only accrued six rebounds (three offensive), but he was constantly causing havoc with tipped balls and box-outs that translated to MSU fouls. Hall will be another big body to throw at him to help limit second chances for Purdue.

3. Mackey Arena

Mackey Arena might be the toughest place to play in America. On top of that, it has been a house of horrors for Michigan State basketball. The Spartans have lost five straight in West Lafayette and haven’t won since February 20, 2014. Four of those five losses have come by double digits.

Because of the success MSU has enjoyed under Tom Izzo, Michigan State is a big name on any home schedule. For a school like Purdue, in a state like Indiana that bleeds basketball, it means that much more.

Michigan State has been the program in the Big Ten under Izzo. It’s where everyone wants to be when it comes to success within the conference and NCAA tournament. Throw in the fact that the game is nationally televised on CBS on a Sunday, and it should be a raucous atmosphere.

With that being said, I wouldn’t expect Michigan State to be intimidated. They have experienced guards who have helped them get off to good starts in tough environments like Illinois and Indiana. The concern is on the other end, where role players tend to play better at home. On Jan. 16, Purdue got a combined seven points and four rebounds from Ethan Morton, Braden Smith, Brandon Newman, and Mason Gillis. Those players should be much more impactful on Sunday.


The projected line for this game is Purdue -10, with a total of 130. I’d be surprised to see Michigan State close as a double-digit underdog. The Spartans took Purdue to the wire less than two weeks ago without Hall, who we know is vitally important to their chances.

Michigan State has been a double-digit underdog just one time this season. It came on the aircraft carrier against Gonzaga. MSU nearly won that game. I also get the sense that there is some sharp money looking to fade a Purdue team that has covered as a favorite just once in its last four games. The Boilermakers have been fortunate lately in gutting out an ugly win against Maryland while also facing Michigan without Jett Howard.

I’m guessing MSU will open at +9 or +9.5 and be bet down pretty quickly.

As tempting as it is to take nearly four possessions with Michigan State, I can’t endorse a bet on MSU. They’ve gotten blown out at Mackey Arena too many times recently, and Purdue is more than capable of doing it again. The Boilermakers should get healthy contributions from their role players along with the typical Edey production.

I’m keeping my money on the sidelines as far as the total is concerned as well. Both teams are comfortable playing at a slow pace, leading to a likely under. At the same time, Purdue’s offensive efficiency and MSU’s shooting capability from three could push this over the total.

I envision this game playing out like the other road games for MSU this year. Close early, followed by some shaky offensive possessions down the stretch.

Prediction: Michigan State 60, Purdue 68


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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