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Michigan State Basketball: Report card for fourth quarter of 2022-23

The guard play lately has been elite.



Michigan State basketball
© Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK

After a difficult third quarter of the season, Michigan State basketball has shifted into another gear offensively.

For the 2022-23 season, Michigan State basketball has earned overall quarterly report cards of B-, A-, and C. While this may seem all over the board, it makes sense.

To start the season, Michigan State opened with extremely difficult opponents. As they began to figure themselves out and their opponent difficulty leveled out, their play and grade increased. During the third quarter, the Spartans found themselves in the thick of Big Ten play, and their grade took a hit as they struggled.

Over the final quarter of the season, Michigan State only played six games, due to the cancellation of the Minnesota game. MSU would finish 4-2 against the likes of Ohio State, Michigan, (17) Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska, and OSU once again. Even with the two losses, Michigan State is playing perhaps their best basketball of the season.

Here are grade breakdowns for each position group over the final quarter of the season.

Guards: A

While the Michigan State guards have carried the Spartans thus far, and they continued to do so over this final quarter, they have taken a new approach over the last six games.

The emphasis from this group thus far has been superb defense, and yet, over the last six games, the defense has disappeared with that extra effort placed in offense. Suddenly, Michigan State has one of the more prolific offenses in the country, and it’s being led by the guards.

Tyson Walker has been on fire, averaging 18.2 over the last six games, creating for himself from anywhere on the court. A.J. Hoggard has, once again, turned his gameplay up to lead this team. Averaging 15 points to go with eight assists, Hoggard looks all the part of a Final Four point guard. Adkins, outside the first game against Ohio State, has been elite from deep. Even after going 0-for-6 in the win against OSU, Akins is still shooting the three ball at a 50 percent clip.

Michigan State has one of the best three guard combos in the nation right now, peaking at exactly the right time. The only reason this group did not get an A+, is their lack of defense over this fourth quarter of the season. The lack of perimeter defense from both this group and the forwards will need to be a thing of the past.

Forwards: A-

Joey Hauser has been a a constant for Michigan State this year. Even with being a constant source of scoring, Hauser, too, has upped his offensive performance over this last quarter of the season. Averaging 14 points per game throughout the season, Joey has averaged 18 points and six rebounds over the last six games. Outside a mediocre 10-point performance in the Spartans’ win against Indiana, Hauser has been right there with Walker in setting the mark for the Spartans.

For the first time this season, Malik Hall has been completely healthy for a quarterly report. After struggling to stay on the court this year, Hall has seemingly put his injury bug behind him as his senior year regular season comes to an end. Over the last six games, Hall has averaged 10 points off the bench for the green and white. While it was originally expected that Malik, a senior, would lead this team from within the starting five, Malik is playing his sixth man role well. His depth will be key as MSU begins the Big Ten and NCAA Tournament.

Similar to the guards, this shift of poor defense has brought the forwards grade down slightly. Allowing Iowa and Michigan to get hot down the stretch cost this team two wins. Tightening up around the perimeter would elevate the forwards similar to that of the guards.

Centers: C-

If you’ve watched even a minute of Spartan basketball this season, this grade should not surprise you, nor has it changed very much. Mady Sissoko still has not improved as expected, and, while Jaxon Kohler has shown flashes during the final stretch of the season, he still has much to learn.

In a league led by centers Zach Edey, Trayce Jackson-Davis, etc., Michigan State has zero post presence. This entire position group, over the final quarter of the year, is averaging a combined 8.5 points per game to go along with 8.6 rebounds. Even combined, as a group, they are not leading this team statistically.

It is promising, however, to see Jaxon Kohler begin to get some offensive momentum. I can see both sides of the ‘start Kohler over Sissoko’ argument. After having new career highs set during the third quarter stretch of the season, Kohler has quietly shown his ability and potential when called upon to end this regular season.

Even with another below average score, this position group will be the most important as this team navigates through March. As already stated, the guards and forwards are shooting the ball as well as anyone in the country. However, at some point during the tournament, the shooting will go cold and it will be up to the big men on the roster to pick up the slack until the shots begin to fall.

To date, they still haven’t proven they can shoulder that load.

Coaching: B

During the final six games of the regular season, Tom Izzo and company have essentially two coaching decisions that affected their grade. The first being a positive.

Izzo asked Hoggard to focus less on creating for himself, and more on distributing and creating for others. Hoggard dropped his three point attempts from 2.8 to just 1.5, and suddenly began leading this team with great success. Focusing on creating for others, Hoggard has increased his assists from 4.4 per game, to a whopping 7.5 and dropped turnovers from 2.6 to a flat 2.0.

Izzo and staff were able to channel Hoggard’s ability for the better, and has MSU’s offense rolling because of it.

The other coaching decision that had a sizable affect on this team came at the end of the Iowa game. Regardless of Iowa’s incredible final few minutes, Michigan State found themselves up by three with just 10 seconds left. Izzo refrained from forcing an intentional foul, which would cap the Hawkeyes on the final possession at just two points, barring a unique last free throw play. The argument can be made for and against the foul, but seeing as over the final two minutes of regulation, Iowa could not miss, committing the foul most likely was the correct decision.

Izzo and staff let it play out, and the Spartans would end up losing.

Overall: A

Michigan State finished the final six game stretch 4-2. There is an argument to be had that this team very well could have finished an undefeated 6-0 after having control of both losses going into the final 10 minutes against Michigan, and into the final two minutes against Iowa.

Even with the 4-2 record, Michigan State basketball has hit another gear offensively during the final quarter of the season. After averaging just 64 points per game during the third quarter stretch, Michigan State is now putting up an staggering 80.6.

If the center positional group can bump their C- grade up to even a B, along with the guards and forwards continuing their phenomenal play, this roster has Final Four potential. That, however, is a big If. Regardless, the Spartans are hitting their stride as a group at the perfect time, as Tom Izzo teams normally do.


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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