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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2. Veteran regression

Yes, the coaching has been suspect, but it doesn't help when two of your veteran guards have not even stayed stagnant, but get worse from last year to this year.

Let's start with Jaden Akins, a junior who tested the NBA waters last offseason, got feedback, and decided to stay with our beloved Spartans. Last year, he was a plus defender, reliable 3-point shooter (42 percent), and was poised to take a major step forward. This year, he has averaged only 0.7 more points per game over last year and is shooting worse this year in both 2-point and 3-point percentage. Tom Izzo-led teams excel in March because of elite guard play in the most important stretches of the season. Instead, Akins is shooting 21 percent from three in the last five games and has twice shot under 15 percent from the field. For about two weeks, we saw what Akins can be and that's what so frustrating about this team and this season. The ability is there, but for whatever reason, Izzo can't get Akins to play how he needs to play.

Then there's the curious case of AJ Hoggard.

After the Kansas State game, Spartan fans figured that the Hoggard we saw in that game (25 points, 6 assists) would be the one that would show up this season. He's truly a boom-or-bust player. When his mind is right, he can take over the game with his incredible ability to drive to the basket and made tough layups and draw contact. When he's off, he misses easy layups, has terrible body language, and lets himself get consumed by quicksand. His points per game is down two, 2-point shooting percentage is down, and he's averaging one fewer assist per game this season.

This was supposed to be his year. The absence of his name on preseason awards list was supposed to be the mental fuel that this kid needed. Or so we thought. But instead, we are left with one of the biggest "could-have-been" players in Tom Izzo's tenure.