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Pressure shifts to Tom Izzo with Tyson Walker’s return

With a loaded roster, the pressure is now on Tom Izzo.



Tyson Walker
© Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK

With Tyson Walker announcing his return to Michigan State for one final season, the pressure shifts to Tom Izzo.

Tyson Walker is back. The senior guard announced his decision to exercise his extra year of eligibility on Monday. Retaining Walker is as big of an announcement as flipping a five-star high school player or signing an all-conference player out of the transfer portal.

Walker has shown steady improvement during his two seasons at MSU after transferring from Northeastern. He has always been a good defender and shooter, but his development as a passer and a more aggressive scorer last season were signs of bigger things to come. Unfortunately for Walker and the Spartans, their season ended right before it felt like Walker was ready to take college basketball by storm.

With another offseason of work and improved talent on the roster, it’s not impossible to see Walker finishing his MSU career on par with other guards like Kalin Lucas, Denzel Valentine, and Cassius Winston.

Now, the pressure shifts to Tom Izzo.

It’s going to be on Izzo to manage this roster – along with Tyson Walker – to get the most out of this group. The 2023-24 Michigan State basketball team sets up quite differently than the teams of the past three seasons. Unlike those teams, this one has depth. It’s not out of the question to see Michigan State going 10 or 11 deep next season. In the modern day of college basketball, getting enough minutes for everybody is going to be a challenge.

The other significant hurdle to manage will be where this roster has depth. It’s in the backcourt. A.J. Hoggard, Jaden Akins, Tre Holloman, and Jeremy Fears Jr. are all guys that will be fighting for minutes at the guard positions. Walker obviously didn’t come back to play a diminished role – and MSU showed how badly they need Hoggard on the floor last season. That leaves only one guard spot (presumably Akins) with backup minutes available for Holloman and Fears Jr. Balancing those minutes to keep everyone happy while also trying to put MSU’s best lineup on the floor may take some time to figure out.

The other difference between the 2023-24 team and teams of recent memory is that this team will have talent. Talent that goes beyond the typical standards at Michigan State. The Spartans haven’t put a player on the first-team all-conference list since Cassius Winston in 2020. This team has a couple of guys who could get there. Walker, Hoggard, Akins, and even freshman Xavier Booker are all guys that should receive preseason recognition in some form or fashion.

According to 247Sports, Michigan State is also bringing in the third-ranked recruiting class in the country – statistically one of the best all-time for MSU.

It is worth noting that this type of “on paper” talent hasn’t always translated to great success for MSU. The three most comparable examples are the Michigan State teams from 2011, 2014, and 2018. All three of those teams featured prominent players returning (Kalin Lucas, Gary Harris, Miles Bridges) to go along with tremendous talent on the existing roster. Together, those three teams produced one Big Ten championship, one Big Ten Tournament title, and one Sweet 16 appearance. Personally, those are also three of the most disappointing teams in the Tom Izzo era.

The point here is not to paint Izzo as a coach who can’t coach talented teams. He’s had plenty of successful years to point to the contrary. What it is to say is that teams as a whole don’t always add up to be greater than their individual parts. Great coaches consistently prove otherwise by maximizing their talent for the betterment of the team.

For the past couple of seasons, MSU fans have been patient because they have been able to see that – for the most part – Tom Izzo has done that. Patience this upcoming season will be much shorter.

It’s still fairly early in the offseason. There are dominoes left to fall. What does Malik Hall do? Does MSU have an unexpected transfer as a result of that decision? Time will tell. For now though, for what feels like the first time in quite a while, Izzo has a group of “dudes” that can stack up against anyone. At a place like Michigan State, this type of roster doesn’t come together often. Izzo knows all too well that at this point in his career, it could be the last time all of the stars align. It’s up to him to put it all together.


Writer says there’s a huge gap between Purdue and Michigan State basketball

This seems like a wild claim.



Michigan State basketball
© Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

Gregg Doyel of the Indy Star claims that Purdue is “historically loaded” and there’s a huge gap between them and Michigan State basketball.

With the news of Jaden Akins and AJ Hoggard returning along with Tyson Walker and Malik Hall to go along with the No. 4 recruiting class in the country, Michigan State basketball went from a conference title contender to a national title contender.

Essentially everyone who follows college basketball has Michigan State as a top-five team and right there in the Big Ten as 1B to Purdue’s 1A — some even have it the other way around.

The Spartans bring back everyone but Joey Hauser to a team that went to the Sweet 16 and Purdue returns national player of the year Zach Edey to a Big Ten title team. Both teams are loaded and should be at the top of everyone’s list when it comes to national title contention.

But one Indy Star writer believes that Purdue is “historically loaded” and the talent-and-depth gap between the Boilermakers and “everyone else” is as large as he’s seen in years. Just a wild claim.

Gregg Doyel cites a solid incoming class to go along with Edey returning and the two freshmen guards with another year in the system. But he fails to recognize that Michigan State got even better. The Spartans are bringing in an even better recruiting class and they return their 2-3 most talented players from a year ago. The only loss is Hauser.

Saying that this year’s Purdue team is far-and-away the most talented and deepest team in the Big Ten and the gap is the biggest it’s been in years is asinine. There was a much larger gap last year.

Michigan State will go toe-to-toe with the Boilermakers and as long as Edey can be neutralized, the Spartans will have a chance to take them down for the Big Ten crown.

It’s tough to say a team like Michigan State basketball that’s 11-12 guys deep is not nearly as talented or deep as Purdue, but hey, let’s put that early chip on the shoulder.

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Michigan State Basketball: Allocating guard minutes for 2023-24

A lot of guards, not a lot of minutes to be had.



Michigan State basketball
© Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan State basketball has an absolutely loaded backcourt heading into 2023-24. Let’s allocate the guard minutes.

Michigan State basketball has a loaded backcourt with the news of AJ Hoggard and Jaden Akins returning next season. Add this on top of Tyson Walker coming back and Michigan State adding a four-star point guard in Jeremy Fears just loads up this back court even more.

Let’s take a look at what the minute allocation could look like between the five guards on the roster.


The starting point guard is clearly set into place with AJ Hoggard starting 33 of 34 games last year. Next year’s team still goes as Hoggard goes and he will most likely average 28-30 minutes per game. AJ being able to defend multiple positions allows him to play alongside any of the other three guards on the roster next year. He should average around 15 points per game and six-plus assists. Him being able to increase his 3-point percentage up to 35 percent next year should help his scoring dramatically.

The starting shooting guard is Walker who started in all 34 games last season and nothing will change this season. This team is going to rely plenty on Tyson to begin the season as this team continues to mesh with all of the different lineups. He played almost 34 minutes per game this season due to injuries and necessity. Tyson will take a step back and only play 30-32 minutes this upcoming season. He will look to average 16-plus points per game and 2.5-plus assists.


This may come as a surprise, but I believe the backup point guard role will fall to Tre Holloman. He has a year under the belt with the system and should take a step forward in his role. He is able to defend either guard position allowing him to play with any of the other four guards on the team. Holloman will play anywhere between 8-12 minutes per game and will look to be in a more featured role running the backup offense. Tre should average 3-5 points per game and 1.5 assists.

Jeremy Fears will fill in and be able to learn from a loaded backcourt while playing 6-8 minutes per game which could be pushed to 8-10 by the end of the season. Fears defense should rival what Walker brings to this team with this second group. Fears offensive role will look like Tre’s freshman year and not looked upon much offensively. He should look to average 1.5-plus points and one assist per game.

Finally, Jaden Akins will fill in anywhere from 2-5 minutes at the two-guard spot. He can help fill an offensive role when Tyson is out of the game and can handle some of the pick and roll duties in this spot. Akins will mostly play on the wing as he started 25 games there last season. He is a guard, but he’ll be forced into playing on the wing.

Minutes Summary

  • AJ Hoggard: 28-30 per game
  • Tyson Walker: 30-32 per game
  • Tre Holloman: 8-12 per game
  • Jeremy Fears: 6-8 per game
  • Jaden Akins: 2-5 per game

Akins did tweet this out the other day:

So he could see more ball-handling duties.

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Jeremy Fears makes final cut for U19 USA Basketball team

Jeremy Fears could represent USA Basketball again.



Jeremy Fears
© Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Incoming Michigan State freshman Jeremy Fears has made the final cut for the U19 USA Basketball team.

Incoming Michigan State basketball freshman Jeremy Fears is hard at work this summer. He is currently in the process of trying to make the final roster for the U19 USA Basketball team. Thirty-five athletes have been selected to participate in their upcoming training camp, and Fears is included on that list.

Training camp for these 35 athletes with take place June 11-18. Twelve players will then be selected to participate in the FIBA U19 Wold Cup at the conclusion of this training camp. The World Cup takes place from June 24 through July 2.

The 35 players consist of some athletes in the 2022 class that have one year of college ball under their belts. The pool of players also consists of athletes from the 2023 incoming freshmen class and the 2024 class who will be high school seniors. More than half of these participants have USA Basketball experience and ten of them have won gold for the USA already.

Jeremy Fears’ USA Basketball history

Jeremy Fears is one of the 10 players mentioned to have already won gold for the USA. In fact, Fears has won a gold medal twice. He won the 2021 U16 FIBA Championships and in 2022 won gold in the U17 FIBA World Cup.

Based on this history alone, I love his chances to make the team again. The USA Basketball program is obviously very familiar with him already which gives him an advantage. Also, why wouldn’t they want someone who has won two gold medals to play for them again?

Fears has yet to move in to East Lansing like some of his fellow members of his freshman class have. He likely will see this event out before moving to campus to start gearing up for the regular season. Michigan State has had many athletes compete with team USA in the past, so Tom Izzo is more than happy to let his players participate.

For the full USA Basketball press release, click here.

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