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Michigan State basketball needs transition offense to become a factor

It’s about time the transition offense becomes a factor.



Michigan State basketball

Transition offense has been a staple of Michigan State basketball under Tom Izzo. That has not been the case this season.

Transition offense has been a staple of Michigan State basketball under Tom Izzo. That has not been the case this season, however.

Since 2011, MSU hasn’t shot less than 27.2 percent of its initial attempts in transition. In the 2019 and 2020 seasons, when Michigan State fielded a top-10 offensive efficiency, that number hovered around 33 percent. This season, that number is currently sitting at 22.7 percent, good for 287th in the country.

This difference is even more pronounced when examining the shot attempts after grabbing defensive rebounds and opponent-made baskets. After defensive rebounds, they take an attempt in transition only 35 percent of the time. After made baskets, that number drops to 13 percent.

In 2019 those numbers were 50 and 21 percent, respectively; in 2020, 56 and 17 percent, respectively.

Pushing the pace in transition creates higher-quality shot opportunities. The amount of mid-range jumpers taken has been one of the biggest complaints about the offense this year. Michigan State has taken more mid-range shots than all but two teams this season. This problem would be easily solved by pushing the ball in transition.

In transition, Michigan State is taking only 23.4 percent of its shots in the mid-range, while taking 37.4 percent of its shots at the rim and 39.2 percent of its shots from behind the arc. In the half-court, the Spartans’ mid-range percentage nearly doubles to 41.8 percent, while shots at the rim fall to 26.6 percent and 3-pointers sink to 31.6 percent. Somewhat surprisingly, their field goal percentage is nearly identical at all three locations in transition and in the half-court.

However, just by having a better shot selection, their eFG% goes up from 50.4 to 55.6.

Game analysis

The benefit of actively making the effort to push the transition offense was evident in the game against Ohio State. Michigan State had the chance to put the game away late, but they stopped pushing the ball in transition and allowed OSU to get back into it.

MSU only took seven opportunities in transition in the second half, and only took five shot attempts. This was after scoring 17 fast-break points in the first half.

Here I will be analyzing each of MSU’s transition opportunities in the second half:

(16:52): Jaden Akins runs the floor after a rebound and passes the ball to AJ Hoggard at the top of the key, who hits an open Joey Hauser in the corner. Hauser passes on the shot to hit Tyson Walker, who is all alone for a three at the top of key. Hauser is fouled on the pass, and the play is blown dead. The ball is on its way to Walker, and every OSU defender has his back turned. OSU gets away with one here.

(16:08): Hoggard pushes the ball up the court off an OSU make and immediately hits Mady Sissoko for a good look at the rim, who is fouled on the shot attempt.

(13:56): Walker gets a steal, drives to the rim for a contested layup, and misses wildly. Walker makes a bad decision here. He had three guys on him and could have passed to an open Akins for a much easier layup. Hauser was available for a trailing wide-open three as well.

(12:31): Walker runs the floor off a miss and takes it straight to the rim for a layup.

(8:27): Hauser gets the rebound and passes to a running Hoggard up the floor, who hits Walker for an open three in the corner, who misses, but no one is in position for OSU so MSU retains possession.

(6:08): Akins gets the rebound, runs the floor, and takes a contested mid-range jumper, which misses. He had Walker wide open in the corner, but it would be a tough cross-court pass. He also could have given the ball back to Hoggard at the top to start the offense.

(3:40): Mady Sissoko gets the board and passes to AJ Hoggard who runs the floor and draws a foul on the drive.

The outcome was positive on five of the seven opportunities, and there were open threes available on the other two. If MSU continues to push the pace in the second half the way they did in the first, this is likely a comfortable double-digit win.

Going forward

Michigan State basketball has been on an absolute heater from deep over the past couple of weeks. However, it is unlikely that it can depend on consistently shooting above 50 percent from deep in the tournament.

This team is fully capable of making a deep run, but it will likely have to come off the back of our guards pushing the ball in transition and consistently creating higher-quality shot attempts for their shooters.

When they push the ball, the outcomes are consistently positive. This team does not have any less ability to run than Izzo’s teams in the past, but they are hesitant to do it. If they can make the effort to run the floor consistently, this team could have an excellent chance of pushing to a Final Four, if they allow the offense to stagnate in the half-court, this team could once again be facing a first-weekend exit.


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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