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Why Mady Sissoko is Michigan State basketball’s most important player

If MSU wants to win the Big Ten, Mady Sissoko needs to step up.

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

Michigan State basketball is going to rely heavily on guard play this season but Mady Sissoko may just be the most important player.

After the first three games of the season, expectations were sky-high for Mady Sissoko after he put out two outstanding performances against two of the best bigs in all of college basketball. After scoring 14 points and collecting nine rebounds against Drew Timme, the Michigan State basketball big man followed up with 16 points and eight rebounds against Oscar Tshiebwe, with both point totals being career-highs.

Sissoko’s production has since tapered off as he is now averaging 6.3 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. It often times seems like Mady is uncomfortable when getting the ball in the post as he doesn’t seem to have a reliable post move to get himself a bucket. He has excelled at rim running and catching lobs to get his points, however, we have seen those looks taper off as Big Ten teams tend to take away the fast break against Michigan State.

Although Sissoko is not producing the way Spartan fans have wanted on the offensive end, that does not mean he may not be the team’s most important player. No, he is not the best player on the team, and may be the fifth option on offense, but from my observation he plays with the one intangible that every Tom Izzo-coached team thrives on: a relentless motor.

No matter how Sissoko is performing, whether he is missing bunnies or catching lobs, his work ethic never waivers. Sissoko gives 110 percent effort every single time he is on the floor, doing all the little things needed to win a game.

While watching a game you will always see him sprinting down the floor whether it’s to get back on defense or run on a fast break, boxing his man out and crashing the glass, or setting hard screens to get his teammates open; you name it, he does it.

Sissoko also plays arguably the most difficult position to defend in the Big Ten. Being backed up by two inexperienced freshmen, it is important that Sissoko can stay on the floor for at least 20 minutes per game. As we know, the Big Ten is stacked with excellent centers, whether it’s Zach Edey, Hunter Dickinson, Trayce Jackson-Davis, or Cliff Omoruyi, the Spartans need Sissoko in the game to defend those players.

As we saw with Timme and Tshiebwe, it is near impossible to stop a player that good from getting their points, but Sissoko did an excellent job of limiting them. He also did an excellent job of containing Dickinson in the recent win against the Wolverines, holding him to 18 points. Dickinson was still the leading scorer of the game, Spartan fans know he can be a pain as they saw him rack up 33 points against them in a game last season.

Although Sissoko isn’t the most flashy or polished player on the Spartans, his high motor and work ethic on the defensive end as well as all of the little things he does are vital to the Spartans’ success. I believe the offensive production will begin to pick back up as other players such as Hoggard and Akins seem to be coming into their own on the offensive end providing more openings for Mady to get open and score.

All in all, the Spartans need Sissoko if they want to get through the Big Ten gauntlet and make a run in March.

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