Jaden Akins' recent Michigan State basketball struggles can't be overlooked

Michigan State's Jaden Akins, right, moves the ball as Ohio State's Devin Royal defends during the
Michigan State's Jaden Akins, right, moves the ball as Ohio State's Devin Royal defends during the / Nick King/Lansing State Journal / USA

Michigan State basketball fans and even some in the media have been quick to blame the recent struggles on Tom Izzo and the center position. You can also lump me into that group.

I've been harder on Izzo than I probably should be and a lot has to do with his management of the lineups. Playing Xavier Booker for zero of the final 15 minutes in the Ohio State loss really blew my mind, but Izzo defended his decision on Wednesday and stated that he still knows how to coach, contrary to what some fans and alums think.

I've also been critical of the center position over these past few games, especially against Iowa. The Spartans couldn't slow down Ben Krikke which was disappointing because the Hawkeyes' other talented big, Owen Freeman, was in foul trouble the entire game.

But one player seems to be flying under the radar in terms of partial blame for the recent two-game skid against very beatable opponents: Jaden Akins.

Sure, we could throw Tyson Walker in there, too, but he's done enough this season to avoid criticism for the most part and he's been injured. The Spartans can't afford to rest him with his groin injury because they're chasing a tournament berth. And it's obvious that he's probably nowhere near 100 percent.

Akins, however, is completely healthy.

And he's struggled mightily. In fact, over the past three games, he's shooting 6-for-25 from the floor and 3-for-12 from deep. Hitting just around 25 percent of his shots won't help the Spartans win games because he's in there to score. He's arguably the team's best shooter and when he's ice-cold like that, the offense is going to struggle, especially with an unhealthy Walker.

In this recent three-game stretch for Akins, he's scored just 17 points with five rebounds, seven assists, and six steals. Yes, he's been playing well defensively and he's facilitating, but he's needed to score around 10-12 points per game. And he's averaging just under 6.0. Not ideal. Not going to work.

So before we run to blame Izzo (me) or the center spot (also me), let's take a look at some of our struggling veterans like Akins. He's not immune to criticism nor should he be.

If he heats up, Michigan State is an elite team. The Spartans are 3-0 when he scores 20-plus this season. It's time to get him back on track.