Michigan State basketball

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Why I believe Michigan State basketball will surprise people in 2022-23

Although Tom Izzo didn’t fill out the roster and lost some key players, Michigan State basketball is going to surprise people.

Who would have thought that we’d be talking about our excitement for Michigan State basketball in late-September after the football team finished 11-2 last year?

Depressing, I know.

There’s still time for the football team to turn things around, but the basketball program began practice this week and that just sparked some excitement for me.

I read a bunch of recaps from beat reporters who got to attend practice and everything made it seem like this is a tight-knit group of guys. We do hear that every year, but this is quite literally the smallest roster Tom Izzo has ever had.

He has decided not to utilize all of his open scholarships in order to ensure his team is tightly-knit. There’s no choice but for everyone to be close, warm, personal friends.

And that’s a good thing. Izzo’s best teams have played together for years and gelled at an extensive level — go back and look at the 2000 national champs and the 2009 Final Four team.

I think this year’s team — albeit not Izzo’s deepest or most talented — will surprise some people and it’ll be the best MSU team in three years.

And here’s why:

  1. As I mentioned, the roster is smaller and guys have been playing together for quite a while. This comfortability is bigger than you think.
  2. The younger guys are talented and will be forced to grow up quickly. The ceilings for Jaxon Kohler and Tre Holloman are incredibly high. And then you have Carson Cooper who Izzo says is better than he expected. He will have his redshirt burned.
  3. The backcourt depth is really solid as long as everyone is healthy.
  4. AJ Hoggard is that Mateen Cleaves/Draymond Green/Cassius Winston type leader that all good Izzo-coached teams have. He’s going to take that next step this year in all phases.
  5. While the frontcourt depth isn’t great, I do believe there’s plenty of flexibility in the lineups that the Spartans can run out. Mady Sissoko will get better (he has to), Kohler is going to grow up quickly, Cooper is also going to grow up fast, and Joey Hauser can stretch the floor on offense in a smaller lineup.
  6. Injuries are forcing key role players to step up in practice. With Jaden Akins and Malik Hall sidelines for a bit, other guys are being forced to step up and grow into larger roles in practice. This is only going to help down the line.
  7. The early schedule is an absolute gauntlet. This is going to be the most battle-tested team by the time conference play starts.
  8. Speaking of conference play, this may be the weakest Big Ten in years. A strong non-conference schedule is going to make this team more than ready.

This group has grown together and has seen what it takes to be successful. I think we’re going to see it surprise some people and exceed expectations this year. It’ll take some early lumps against top-ranked teams, but that will make it stronger when the conference campaign starts.

Am I drinking the annual Izzo Kool-aid? Dang right I am.

Michigan State basketball

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Michigan State Basketball: Tom Izzo has found his second wind

After being dubbed “washed” by some fans of Michigan State basketball and most rivals, Tom Izzo has proven that it’s not the case.

Twelve years ago, Tom Izzo had to sit down with his family and make a decision about his future with Michigan State basketball.

The Cleveland Cavaliers had come calling, offering to double his MSU salary where he would also have a chance to coach LeBron James (LeBron eventually left the Cavaliers for the Heat). He had to decide if coaching in the NBA was really his dream or if he was happy being a successful college coach with a seemingly endless leash.

Izzo had gone to back-to-back Final Fours for the second time in his career and his stock was at an all-time high. It made sense that he was a top NBA head coaching candidate.

After what felt like an eternity of waiting, fans watched as Izzo made the decision to turn down the NBA (again) and return to Michigan State “for life.”

At the time, that proclamation of “Spartan lifer” seemed like just an expression to show he was in it for the long run. On Thursday, about 12 years and two months later, he made that term official. Izzo signed an extension, making him a “Spartan for life.”

Everyone expected him to remain with Michigan State until he retired, but this move just goes to show that he feels like he has a lot left in the tank. And it’s going to pay dividends for recruiting.

Izzo’s stability will help future recruiting classes and he’s going to be around for a while.

Plus, this proves that he found his second wind.

After a couple of pedestrian seasons, per his standards, it felt like Izzo was entering the twilight years much like Mark Dantonio did. It felt like he was gearing up for an upcoming retirement — potentially after his son graduated.

Not so fast (*in my best Lee Corso voice*).

Izzo has always said that he’ll be done coaching when he’s not having fun anymore. Clearly, after the past few weeks, he’s still having fun. He just completed one of the best recruiting classes of his entire tenure and he’s heading into the 2022-23 season with an extremely close-knit team.

Right when it looked like Izzo was about to ride off into the sunset in a couple of years, he signs a five-year deal that could pay him up to $6.2 million per year. And he pieced together a top-five recruiting class for 2023.

He’s not done yet.

Counting Izzo out is probably the worst thing anyone could do because he just comes back stronger. He loves being overlooked because that’s when he strikes and has his most successful seasons.

A run is coming. No. 2 is coming. Izzo is about to mess around and cut down some nets in the years to come.

Michigan State basketball

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Will Michigan State basketball land 4-star SF Coen Carr?

Michigan State basketball is pushing for one final piece to its 2023 recruiting class in the form of Coen Carr.

Remember the “Tom Izzo is washed” crowd? It’s nearly gone extinct over the past couple of weeks.

Five-star big man Xavier Booker committed to Michigan State over Indiana, four-star athletic sharpshooting wing Gehrig Normand picked the Spartans just days after getting an offer, and now four-star freak athlete Coen Carr looks to be well on his way to joining the already-loaded 2023 class.

Right now, the class is almost perfectly balanced.

It has a point guard (Jeremy Fears), a shooting wing (Normand), and an elite scoring big (Booker). All it needs is another athletic wing. Come on down, Coen Carr.

On Saturday, just one day after Carr revealed his commitment date of Aug. 9, Michigan State began to get a flood of predictions. Recruiting experts and insiders on On3, Rivals, and 247Sports all pegged him to be a future Spartan. And that’s where I tend to agree.

The questions on everyone’s mind since Normand committed have been: Will Carr join the class? Will he commit shortly after getting a Michigan State basketball offer? Did Tom Izzo really seal the deal that quickly? Do the other three MSU commits have what it takes to convince him?

The answer to all of those questions will be yes, in my opinion.

Michigan State has the momentum here. Carr loved his visit, connected with Izzo, and he’s close with Michigan State’s three commits in the class. This seems like a no-brainer.

With Carr, Michigan State’s class would be top-three nationally and he’d fill that ‘super-athlete wing’ void that the Spartans need. Normand is a great athlete and he can shoot, but Carr has a different skill set. The two complement each other well on the wings. Carr could develop a solid jumper and be one of the scariest recruits in the class — he’s already arguably the best athlete in 2023.

All signs are pointing to Carr becoming the latest MSU commitment and the fit is there.

It makes too much sense.

  1. MSU has a need for wings.
  2. He loved his visit.
  3. He’s committing less than two weeks after his MSU visit.
  4. He complements the rest of MSU’s commits.
  5. MSU’s commits have been in his ear.
  6. Elite athletes have thrived in East Lansing (Shannon Brown, Branden Dawson, Miles Bridges, Jason Richardson).
  7. Izzo has proven to be a closer.

If I had a crystal ball, it would be Carr to Michigan State.

Michigan State basketball


Could Michigan State basketball be in the mix for Purdue decommit Dra Gibbs-Lawhorn?

Four-star combo guard Dra Gibbs-Lawhorn decommitted from Purdue on Wednesday and Michigan State basketball could be in the mix.

Death. Taxes. Tom Izzo beating Matt Painter out for top recruits.

I tweeted this out after Xavier Booker committed to Michigan State basketball over Purdue and Indiana — the in-state schools — and it may actually need to come up again.

Four-star combo guard Dra Gibbs-Lawhorn (No. 48 nationally) decommitted from Purdue after being verbally solid since December. Izzo could swoop in once again and assert his recruiting dominance over Painter here.

Could Michigan State be in the mix for Gibbs-Lawhorn who was on the Spartans’ radar before he committed to Purdue? Ant Wright thinks so.

It’s wild how much Michigan State’s recruiting has turned around over the past couple of weeks. Maybe Gibbs-Lawhorn saw Booker commit to the Spartans along with Jeremy Fears (who he happens to be close with) and Gehrig Normand and wanted to be part of something special. Good players want to play with other good players and this could be just the latest case of that.

Michigan State may have reached out to Gibbs-Lawhorn or expressed interest in adding him to the expanded board, but I’m not completely sold that he’s priority No. 1 after Devin Royal commits to Ohio State.

After Royal, I think Izzo’s top priority is Coen Carr, a 6-foot-7 athletic freak from South Carolina, but it doesn’t hurt to have a backup plan. Continuing to add to that recruiting board is important because if Carr commits elsewhere, he’ll look to add a high-caliber fourth prospect to the class. Gibbs-Lawhorn fits that bill.

For those who believe that Izzo could add both since there will be room and Carr and Gibbs-Lawhorn play different positions, I’d lean more toward him taking one or the other. Yes, both play different positions, but Izzo has been vocal about not reaching the scholarship limit anymore before “it’s impossible to make everyone happy.”

Plus, Gibbs-Lawhorn is a guard and he’d join an already-loaded backcourt with AJ Hoggard, Jaden Akins, Tre Holloman, Fears, and the potential for Tyson Walker to return for one final season. That wouldn’t make a ton of sense roster-wise. He’s 6-foot-1 so that limits his ability to play more on the wing like Akins.

And Michigan State hasn’t even offered yet, according to 247Sports.

Though I’m not sold on Gibbs-Lawhorn joining MSU just yet, others disagree. Tipton Edits posted about the decommitment and Xavier Booker commented along with Andrej Stojakovic, a top 25 recruit in the 2023 class who says that he believes that Fears and Dra “will be future teammates again.”

via Tipton Edits on Instagram

It’ll be interesting to see if Izzo puts on the press with Gibbs-Lawhorn and goes against his word this offseason and fills out the scholarships with a five-man class, but my money would be on him going all-in on Carr and by the time he decides, the Purdue decommit may have already chosen a new school.

Gehrig Normand

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Gehrig Normand has a game built for Michigan State basketball

Michigan State basketball just got better on Tuesday night.

Four-star small forward Gehrig Normand (North Richland Hills, Texas) committed to the Spartans three days after leaving East Lansing with a scholarship offer.

Tom Izzo proved that he’s not afraid to add to his recruiting board when the ‘Plan A’ targets don’t work out. Fans really wanted to see this from the Hall of Fame head coach after an up-and-down offseason.

Normand also fits that description of a ‘Spartan Dawg’ to a T. He plays with a chip on his shoulder and has plenty of confidence. He plays inside-out and while he may not be able to create his own shot at a high rate at the next level — at least early on — he will be able to score around the rim and from the perimeter.

Looking for a former Spartan comp? My mind goes directly to Matt McQuaid. Although McQuaid was pretty athletic, he wasn’t going to throw down on a regular basis. I’d say he has the shooting touch of McQuaid with even more athleticism. He has some bunnies, but he’ll be spending a lot of time on the perimeter as a freshman if I were to wager a guess. His athleticism is more comparable to that of a healthy Kyle Ahrens.

Normand’s game is built for Michigan State. Not only have players like him succeeded in East Lansing before, but he plays with a chip and he looks like he’ll be a 3-4 year player. He’s going to play on the wing while Fears runs the point and Booker has the post on lock. If the Spartans can add Coen Carr to this class, that would be best-case scenario.

Michigan State now has two guys in the class (Normand and Fears) who will be at least 3-4 year guys, more than likely, and Booker is a likely one-and-done.

With Normand in the fold, he’s going to grow into a fan favorite rather quickly and his ceiling is incredibly high. He’ll be one of those guys who will be a role player in year one, a potential starter in year two, and then a star in year three. That is the perfect Michigan State prospect.

Izzo is fist-pumping somewhere.

Michigan State basketball


After slow start, Michigan State basketball’s 2023 recruiting class will be special

The 2023 Michigan State basketball recruiting class entered the new year with zero commits and plenty of question marks especially after Tom Izzo signed just two guys in his 2022 class.

Six days after the calendar turned to 2022, Jeremy Fears made it official and committed to the Spartans.

It was a slow start for Izzo, but Fears was the perfect prospect to kick things off. He’s the prototypical Michigan State point guard who plays fearlessly and with a chip on his shoulder. He is a natural leader and calls himself the “floor general” which is fitting because he commands respect from everyone when the ball is in his hands.

Nearly seven months passed without another commit, but on July 30, Xavier Booker made it official and joined the 2023 class as Izzo’s top-ranked pledge ever — No. 1 overall on Rivals and No. 3 on 247Sports.

Despite that slow start to the class and some fans even going as far as calling Izzo “washed” because of the last couple of classes and lack of utilization of the transfer portal, the Hall of Fame coach has put together a heck of a one-two punch for 2023. And he’s not even close to being done.

Devin Royal, a four-star wing from Ohio, was his No. 3 priority in the class behind Fears and Booker but it looks like he’s going to be committing to Ohio State over Michigan State. The relationship he built with Chris Holtmann was just too strong and long-lasting that Izzo’s late surge just wasn’t enough. But unlike the previous couple of cycles, Izzo immediately went to Plan B options before it was too late.

In fact, he hosted four-star athletic sharpshooting wing Gehrig Normand (North Richland Hills, Texas) this past weekend and extended him an offer before he left East Lansing. On Monday, Michigan State picked up a huge crystal ball from Justin Thind on 247Sports for Gehrig who would be that Matt McQuaid-type piece.

During that same weekend, Izzo hosted another uncommitted four-star wing in Coen Carr (Greenville, S.C.) who is an athletic specimen and would give the 2023 class a heck of a boost in that category. I’m thinking he’s more of a Branden Dawson-type who could add a jumper. He left East Lansing with an offer as well.

Izzo is putting in the work to land both of these ‘Plan B’ guys who actually have the talent to be Plan A targets and if all goes to plan, the 2023 class could rival 2016 as the most talented in MSU basketball history.

Time to smoke that Izzo doubters pack.