Michigan State basketball

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Michigan State basketball: Absence of Malik Hall felt vs. Alabama

The absence of Malik Hall was felt big-time as Michigan State basketball fell against Alabama on Thursday night.

Another key player is hurt for Michigan State basketball, as the Spartans announced that senior starter Malik Hall is going to miss approximately three weeks with a stress reaction in his left foot.

Michigan State will likely have to ask Pierre Brooks to start throughout Phil Knight Invitational as he did against No. 18 Alabama and Hall’s absence was certainly felt. Brooks has shown a ton of flashes of greatness and now it is his time to show what he has.

Hall isn’t going to be rushed back, but it’s clear that the Spartans are sorely missing him.

According to a press release from Michigan State, Malik started feeling discomfort after MSU’s win over Villanova on Friday night at the Breslin Center. Michigan State does not expect Hall to need to get surgery. The Spartans are also likely to be down sophomore guard Jaden Akins who also was injured in the Villanova game and re-aggravated a foot injury he sustained earlier in the year. Akins is likely going to miss the weekend tournament.

Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo said in a statement shared on Twitter, “I feel bad for Malik as he was off to a strong start to his senior season. If there is a silver lining to be found, the medical staff is optimistic that the injury was discovered before it progressed into something more serious. While we absolutely won’t rush him back, the early diagnosis should hopefully result in a shorter absence.”

Izzo will need to dip into an already thin bench and use more players in an expanded role like Carson Cooper, Tre Holloman, Jaxon Kohler, and potentially some walk-ons like Jason Whitens and Keon Coleman from the MSU football team who has shown he is more than capable of holding his own on the hardwood.

Hall is averaging 12 points and five rebounds in 32 minutes per game this season while Akins is averaging 7.0 points and four rebounds in 20 minutes per game.

Michigan State basketball

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Michigan State basketball: Projected starting 5 without Malik Hall

Malik Hall is reportedly out for a couple of weeks and Michigan State basketball will have little depth to work with.

We just can’t catch a break, can we? Michigan State basketball fans had to be excited about the PK85 tourney and elite field, but news broke late on Wednesday night that changed that.

According to Brendan Quinn, Malik Hall will miss the tournament and likely be sidelined for a couple of weeks. He also stated that Jaden Akins sounds doubtful versus Alabama.

So this got me thinking — what will the starting five look like with Hall out?

It’s not going to be a big lineup, for obvious reasons, but Tom Izzo will get to play some small-ball that he talked about in the preseason. Obviously facing star forward Brandon Miller is going to be an issue for this lineup because there aren’t enough stretch bigs, but this is what I see with Hall out:

G: AJ Hoggard
G: Tyson Walker
G/F: Pierre Brooks OR Jaden Akins (only if healthy)
F: Joey Hauser
C: Mady Sissoko

Bench: Tre Holloman, Jaxon Kohler, Carson Cooper, Jason Whitens

Hoggard and Walker are going to lead a very small lineup but as long as both of those guys stay healthy, I think Michigan State will be OK. Obviously the post depth is an issue.

Brooks will likely get his first start on Thursday against Alabama unless Akins shocks everyone and plays and he’ll be on the wing. Hauser will have to play more minutes in the post than he’s used to and Sissoko will have to stay out of foul trouble. In the worst-case scenario, Kohler will have to play extensively in the post and get. the learning experience of a lifetime.

I like the lineup with Hoggard, Walker, and Brooks playing on the perimeter. All three guys can score at every level (yes, even Brooks has shown the ability to drive this year), and Hauser also stretches the floor. Sissoko will have to bounce back from his shaky performance against Villanova.

Whitens could also see the floor along with Cooper in the post.

Losing Hall hurts big-time, but we’re about to see what this team is made of.

Michigan State basketball

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Michigan State Basketball: What are realistic expectations for 2022-23?

Michigan State basketball is about to tip off its season in a few weeks. What are realistic expectations for this team?

The 2022-23 Michigan State basketball season is still a couple of weeks from tipoff as it’ll open things up with an exhibition game against Grand Valley on Nov. 1, followed by the regular-season opener vs. Northern Arizona on Nov. 7.

But we’re already starting to talk about realistic expectations for the upcoming season.

Michigan State is coming off a disappointing second-round exit and it’s lost Julius Marble, Marcus Bingham Jr., Max Christie, and Gabe Brown. How did Tom Izzo replace all of those departures? With a freshman class consisting of three guys: Jaxon Kohler, Carson Cooper, and Tre Holloman.

Confidence hasn’t exactly been injected into the fanbase by Izzo’s dismissal of the transfer portal this offseason. He has two former transfers in his projected starting five, but he preached culture in his preseason presser and stated that he has to give the guys he recruited a chance.

It makes sense to a point, but he has shown that he’s not afraid to use the portal. Plus, I don’t think Joey Hauser and Tyson Walker are bad for culture. Actually the contrary is true there.

Walker and Hauser opted to return, Malik Hall is back, AJ Hoggard is arguably back as the best point guard in the Big Ten, Mady Sissoko has developed per Izzo, and Jaden Akins and Pierre Brooks both look to improve drastically (as long as Akins can stay healthy). Oh, and the three freshmen figure to play healthy roles, especially Kohler in the post.

So what are the expectations for this team with a limited roster?

Look, I know what Izzo is doing with his scholarships is unorthodox and it may be tough to see his vision, but he did make some good points when he stated that it’s impossible to make a dozen-plus scholarship guys all happy at the same time. So keeping this roster on the slimmer end may actually help the rotation. Heck, Izzo usually struggles to trim the rotation for months anyways.

And Michigan State’s starting five is easily one of the best in the conference. Hoggard is an All-Big Ten first-team talent, Hall has shown in the past he can be special, Hauser is finally gaining confidence, Walker has shown to be a legit two-way threat, Akins might end up as the most improved player on the team, Brooks can shoot the lights out, Sissoko has “developed,” Kohler is a future star, Cooper is a “diamond in the rough” per Izzo, and Holloman can be a lockdown defender.

No, this team isn’t super deep, but even the best teams play 7-8 guys regularly. It’s when you’re forced to reach into the No. 9 and No. 10 player off the bench that you’re probably in trouble.

An injury would derail things, no doubt, but this team has talent.

Not only do they have talent, but they’re going to be more battle-tested than every single team in the Big Ten when conference play begins. That early-season gauntlet is going to force these guys to grow up in a hurry.

But this squad is structured to be one of those surprisingly-solid underrated Izzo teams.

Realistic expectations have to be a top-four finish in the conference standings in a down year for the Big Ten and an NCAA Tournament berth. Those should be the expectations for this team. The ceiling would probably be conference title contention and a top-five seed in the NCAA Tournament. I can see MSU starting the season 2-5 and then reeling off 10 straight wins. That’s just how the schedule is structured.

One thing is certain, however: Michigan State is going to grow up quickly and be dang good by the start of conference play. Then anything is possible.