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Michigan State basketball: Who are the USC Trojans?

Let’s meet the Spartans’ first-round opponent.



Michigan State basketball vs. USC
© Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard / USA TODAY NETWORK

Michigan State basketball is matched up with USC in the first round of the 2023 NCAA Tournament. Who are the Trojans?

Michigan State basketball is set to face off against USC in the first round of the 2023 NCAA Tournament on Friday in Columbus.

Unless you live on the West Coast or are a night owl that is obsessed with Pac-12 basketball, it’s very likely that you haven’t seen much of USC this season.

Let’s get to know the Trojans a little better.


In the final seed list released by the selection committee, USC came in at 39th overall. For context, MSU was 26th. The last at-large team was Arizona State at No. 46. So, while USC wasn’t considered a true bubble team, they were still in the “last four byes” category that bracketologists note in their bubble breakdowns.

Looking at their schedule, there is certainly a case to be made that their position on the seed list is generous. Their best win this season is a victory at home against UCLA on Jan. 26. The 13-point victory likely boosted many of their metrics related to the NET rankings. Aside from that, two wins over Arizona State (the last team in the field) and a home victories over Auburn and Vermont are the only wins the Trojans have against teams in the field.

As for losses, they have an overtime loss to Tennessee and a two-point defeat on the road at UCLA that shows the ceiling of this team. Take this with a grain of salt because it was the first game of the season on Nov. 7, but USC lost by 13 at home to Florida Gulf Coast. That isn’t the worst loss on their ledger though. The loss at Oregon State on Feb. 11 is the type of loss you rarely see from a team in the field of 68. Oregon State ranks outside the top 200 in KenPom and won just five games in a weak Pac-12. USC also lost by double-digits in road games against Washington State, Arizona, and Oregon. So, you get the picture.

USC stacked average to above average wins in a bad Pac-12 and didn’t do anything extraordinary on either end of the spectrum in the non-conference. They avoided really bad losses (for the most part) and pounded the terrible teams in their league.

Statistical profile

USC ranks 50th in the NCAA NET rankings, and 36th overall per KenPom. The Trojans sport a top-50 offense and defense, and rank near the middle of the pack in terms of tempo.

USC’s strength is its defense – specifically their interior defense. The Trojans rank second in the nation in two-point shooting percentage, holding opponents to 42 percent. They also rank 12th in block percentage and No. 9 in overall effective field goal percentage defense. Their roster is filled with long, wing defenders that can guard multiple positions. It has a very NBA-type feel to it in a sense that USC doesn’t play anyone smaller than 6-foot-3. That certainly has the potential to give Michigan State some problems because the Spartans are smaller in the backcourt.

Outside of that interior defense though, there isn’t a ton that jumps off the page with this USC team. Offensively, they are about as average as they come.

Effective field goal percentage, turnover percentage, offensive rebounding, and 3-point shooting percentage all rank outside the top 100 in KenPom. Defensively, they’re not forcing a ton of turnovers, teams have been able to have some success shooting the three against them, and they allow opponents to get to the free throw line a decent amount.

The one glaring weakness with the Trojans is their tendency to give up offensive rebounds. They’re allowing an offensive rebound on 32.6 percent of misses. That ranks 328th nationally. This isn’t a very good offensive rebounding group for MSU, but I’d expect them to crash the boards hard given those numbers combined with the fact that USC isn’t eager to play in transition.

By looking at the numbers, the USC formula for success involves using their length to pressure ball handlers, force shots late in the shot clock, and make it a half court game where they can lean on their defense. The Trojans have seemed more inclined to play at a faster pace against bad teams. They frequently scored in the 80s against the bottom of the Pac-12. But when you look at their games against quality opponents, most of them are played in the high 60s and low 70s. I’d have to guess that’s where they want to make Michigan State basketball play. An up-tempo high possession game has the risk of neutralizing that interior defense and generating a lot of 3-point attempts for Michigan State basketball.


Andy Enfield is in his 10th season at USC. Time flies. It feels like just a few years ago he was leading Florida Gulf Coast on that Cinderella run to the Sweet 16.

Assuming USC would have made the NCAA tournament in 2020 before it was cancelled (they were 22-9), he’s been to the Big Dance in five of his 10 seasons. He’s been to the second weekend just once – an Elite Eight trip in 2021 with star freshman and lottery pick Evan Mobley.

This year’s team is led by senior guard Boogie Ellis (elite name) who is in his second year at USC after transferring from Memphis. USC isn’t a deep team – only playing about seven players for significant minutes. So, Ellis has the ball a lot. He leads the team in scoring at 18 points per game. He’s a good shooter at almost 40 percent from three and 81 percent from the free throw line. Get used to him. He’s the straw that stirs the drink and he might play all 40 minutes on Friday.

The other guy to get to know is Drew Peterson who rarely comes off the court. He’s played almost 90 percent of available minutes this season and does a ton for this USC team offensively. He’s a capable shooter at 36 percent from deep while also leading the team in assists and rebounding. The 6-foot-9 senior can be sloppy with the basketball, as he is credited with 88 turnovers this season.

Reese Dixon-Waters, Kobe Johnson, and Tre White are other key contributors to watch for. Dixon-Waters and White are far more effective scoring inside than out, as both are sub 30 percent shooters from downtown. Johnson is a thief defensively, ranking 21st in all of college basketball in steal rate. He’s been credited with 71 steals on the season. All three players average between 9-10 points per game while also doing sufficient work on the glass.

Outside of Peterson, Joshua Morgan is the most effective rebounder for the Trojans. The 6-foot-11 junior will be in the game for his defense, blocking 63 shots on the season.

USC ranks 289th nationally in bench minutes – another reason why I think they will try and slow this game down. Officiating will be key here as well, as USC can’t afford to get into foul trouble with their depth concerns.


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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