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Michigan State basketball: 3 takeaways from loss to Wisconsin

Another rough road loss.

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Michigan State basketball
© Kayla Wolf-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan State basketball lost to Wisconsin for the second time this season on Friday night. What’d we learn from this one?

Well, folks, it can’t get much uglier than that. Michigan State basketball went to Wisconsin in one of the most critical games of their season and got absolutely embarrassed 81-66. The Badgers dominated from the jump and frankly were the better team in every facet.

I have a lot of takeaways from this game and none are positive, but these three stand out to me the most.

1. Where is the Michigan State of old?

MSU basketball under Tom Izzo has always been defined by defense, rebounding, and out-working the opponent. Michigan State hasn’t been good at most of these things this season, but tonight was the worst I’ve seen all year. The Spartans’ defense had been lights out recently, but it was nonexistent against the Badgers. Everyone always says “defense travels” but that wasn’t true on Friday.

Out-working and rebounding go hand in hand with each other. Rebounding is all about who wants it more and who works the hardest. This team has been a below-average rebounding team all season, and this game felt like an all-time low. Wisconsin outrebounded MSU on Friday 35-25 including a 12-8 margin on the offensive glass. Wisconsin guard Chucky Hepburn even grabbed an offensive rebound over Carson Cooper and Mady Sissoko in the first half. All that tells me is Wisconsin wanted it more than MSU, which used to never happen under Izzo.

2. Sissoko/Cooper lineup just doesn’t work

Speaking of Cooper and Sissoko, why are they on the court at the same time so much? I get the logic of trying it against Wisconsin because they play a few of their bigs at the same time, but when it proves to not be working you just have to try something new.

Both Carson and Mady are a liability on the offensive side of the floor. They both also have multiple plays every game that just leaves you scratching your head. The strength of this Michigan State team is in their guards and forwards like Malik Hall, so playing Carson and Mady at the same time just doesn’t make sense to me.

To prove this point even more, Xavier Booker finally got some playing time towards the end of the game. Booker has his issues defensively, but he can really score the ball at times. And what did Booker do? He scored five quick points with an offensive rebound. I rest my case.

3. The NCAA Tournament streak is in jeopardy

I’ve been very vocal that I don’t think the tournament streak is in danger. I’m however officially changing my stance on this tonight. If I had to guess, MSU likely would still make the tournament if the season ended today. But that has the chance to change fast.

Michigan State only has two more resume-building games left in their season, Illinois at home and Purdue on the road. Other than that, they have a bunch of games they “should win.” Losing a few of these “should win” games is what will take this team out of the tournament field. And if I’m being honest, I’m not very confident right now that they will win all of these games.

Something has to change and fast. Thankfully Michigan State gets their in-state rival Michigan at home in their next game. The Wolverines are one of the worst teams in the conference, so if MSU can’t get their season going against them then this season is in big trouble.

Lead writer for Spartan Shadows since April 2023, writing over 450 articles. Michigan State basketball, football and recruiting expert. Class of 2019 graduate from Michigan State University specializing in Sports Management. Daily MSU runs a popular X page (@daily_msu) covering all things MSU Sports.

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