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Michigan State basketball playing its best ball of the season at the right time

Happy Izzo, everyone.



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

Michigan State basketball is playing its best ball of the season and it happens to be coming at the perfect time.

A good win over Maryland followed by a throttling of Ohio State. A game against Michigan that Michigan State basketball controlled 90 percent of before losing it late in its first game after the tragedy. A fantastic bounce-back win where we dominated Indiana followed by arguably our best offensive performance of the year against Iowa, in which we blew a 10-point lead in the final 40 seconds before losing in overtime.

The devastating collapse seemed to be the tipping point for this team as the next time out they quickly found themselves down by 15 to Nebraska on the road. But the Spartans quickly caught fire and ended up winning convincingly by 13.

The last month of Spartan hoops has been anything but predictable. Sometimes this team looks like a Final Four contender. Sometimes they’re going from one four-minute offensive drought to another. And other times they can’t seem to close out games for the life of them.

So how good is this Michigan State team really?

Well, despite a couple of disappointing results against Michigan and Iowa, I believe this team is playing its best basketball of the season. And they’re starting to get it going at the perfect time with postseason play right on the horizon.

In our wins, we’ve looked dominant. The guard play has been phenomenal, the post play has improved with the emergence of Jaxon Kohler.

In the two losses we’ve had over the past month, it’s not like this team played poorly. Against Michigan, the Spartans led practically all game. It was the first game we played after the tragic shooting that occurred on campus. So everyone was just happy they went out there and played hard.

In the other loss against Iowa, it seemed like we couldn’t miss. In the second half, the Spartans built their lead to 10 and that’s where it would stay for just about the rest of the game. Every time Iowa made a shot to spark a run the Spartans would quickly answer and shut it down.

Michigan State scored 100 points for the first time all season and shot an insane 11-for-15 from three. It was a dominant performance offensively for 39 minutes of the game. But in the final minute of the game Iowa couldn’t miss a single shot, they put up and forced overtime, where the Spartans would lose.

Still, over the course of the last month even in our losses, this Spartan team seems to be getting it going at just the right time.

A big reason for that has been the 3-point shooting. Michigan State ranks in the top 15 out of 358 Division I schools in 3-point percentage. The only issue with that is Michigan State also ranks in the bottom 50 percent in 3-point attempts.

Why does a team that shoots the three so well, not shoot very many of them? Against Iowa, we shot 11-for-15 from deep, an insane stat. And in the second half against Nebraska, we started the second half 10-for-14 from deep. Something I’m not sure I’ve ever seen us do so consistently at MSU.

Live by the three, die by the three, as the saying goes. But this team is living. And the only thing that seems to be killing them is when they don’t shoot more and instead settle for a lot of contested shots inside the arc. It may be unconventional for a Tom Izzo team but I think he needs to encourage them to start shooting even more threes than they already do.

If they can learn how to close out games and avoid more late-game collapses, this team can be a real threat in March. Great guard play is what makes great teams in the Big Dance. And with AJ Hoggard and Tyson Walker at the helm for the Spartans as well as Jaden Akins coming on very strong over the past few games, there’s no denying the Spartans have one of the best backcourts in the country.

So while we’ve had some very frustrating results recently we need to stick with this team, Spartan Nation. We all know what Izzo is capable of in March.