Michigan State Basketball: Despite rough patch, Xavier Tillman still an elite PF

Xavier Tillman, Michigan State basketball (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
Xavier Tillman, Michigan State basketball (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images) /

Despite a minor rough patch, highlighted by the Wisconsin debacle, Michigan State basketball’s Xavier Tillman is still among the elite.

A year ago around this time, Michigan State was fighting through a slump and they got over it by following a three-game losing streak with Big Ten regular season and tournament titles as well as a Final Four run.

Fast forward to February 2020 and Michigan State is now 3-4 in its last seven games, dropping from 5-0 in conference play down to 8-4 and first place down to a mess in second and third.

Throughout this rough stretch, Xavier Tillman has been struggling. Whether it’s fighting through sickness (which he did against Illinois but still played well) or battling the distraction that the birth of a child brings, his game hasn’t been quite up to par with how he’s capable of producing.

That’s not to say Tillman has played poorly, though. He’s averaging 13.3 points, 10.1 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game, but he’s hit a rough patch.

In each of the Spartans’ four losses in the past seven games, Tillman has failed to reach double figures in the scoring column. In fact, when Tillman doesn’t score in double figures this season, Michigan State is just 2-6. To say that the Spartans need him to play well in order to win is an understatement.

Coming off back-to-back single-digit outputs, the Spartans are on a two-game losing streak and both were winnable games. Against Wisconsin, Tillman had the worst game of his career and shot 3-of-15 from the floor, missing bunny after bunny yet the Spartans lost by just one. Against Penn State, he took just five shots and made three, and Michigan State lost by five but had two chances to tie in the final seconds.

Despite this rough patch, which Tillman should surely shake, the Spartans’ big man is still considered one of the nation’s elite power forwards after being named to the Malone Award watch list.


Tillman is one of 10 players named to the watch list for an award given to the nation’s top power forward — that just goes to show how good the Spartans truly have it. Even though he hasn’t played his best, he’s still one of the nation’s elite power forwards.

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The junior will break out of his slump soon and so will the Spartans.