3 reasons Michigan State basketball underachieved in the regular season

Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo reacts to a play against Northwestern during the second half at
Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo reacts to a play against Northwestern during the second half at / Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK
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If you're one of those Michigan State basketball fans who thinks just making the NCAA Tournament is the goal for the entire season, then I appreciate the time you have taken to click this article, but you are not the target audience for this one.

Yes, we are lucky that we have Tom Izzo as a coach who knows more about basketball than the rest of us combined, but that doesn't mean he never makes mistakes. This is a program he built from the ground up, and has set a standard for himself. I guarantee he is not happy with "just making the tournament" and this fanbase shouldn't be either.

Since Izzo took over, this program has the most Big Ten regular season titles, conference tournament titles, and Final Fours of any team in the league. In other words: banners. You come to play for Izzo to hang a banner and this group just can't get it done.

Here are the three reasons the Spartans went from a preseason national title favorite to eighth in the Big Ten standings.

1. Coaching decisions

This seems like a blanket statement but there were so many head-scratching moments, that "decisions" in general doomed this team so many times this season.

From rotations to playing time to decisions made last offseason have cost this team wins. We all knew that the center position was the weak link on this team (more on this later), but the decision to play two big men at a time in some spots is indefensible.

While Coen Carr is extremely athletic, he is still very much a freshman whose defensive ability is still raw. When paired up with Carson Cooper (the best center defender), the combo went +23 in point differential in conference play. Carr and Mady Sissoko went -11 and Coen and Jaxon Kohler went -18 (thank you Andy H on twitter for the immaculate breakdown). Putting a freshman with a substandard defender around him meant he had to take on a larger role than he was ready for.

A recent example is the loss against Ohio State where Buckeye interim coach Jake Diebler flat-out admitted that once Xavier Booker left the court they "were able to get some deeper catches. We were able to get the ball a little deeper, which helped us." Now, if Ohio State had put up 85 points, sure, Booker's defensive can come into question. But instead, they won with 60 points with the Spartans putting up a whopping seven points in the last 11 minutes. Why not put the center with the highest offensive ceiling in during a scoring rut and sacrifice that one small aspect of defense to help out your veteran guards?

No, nothing that has happened this season calls for Izzo to be fired by Alan Haller. But changes need to be made on either the assistant coaching side of things and/or the construction of this roster. There needs to be an upgrade at whatever position coordinates the offense. Shot selection has been putrid, whether it's a long two, a post touch late in a possession, or standing around until 12 seconds left on the shot clock only to result in a contested shot by AJ Hoggard, Jaden Akins, or Tyson Walker.

There is way too much talent on this team to settle for isos or low-percentage heaves. The offense in the last three weeks has been unwatchable and that's coming from someone who watched 24 games of Jay Johnson's offense the past two years.