Michigan State Basketball: I hate it here

Ohio State v Michigan State
Ohio State v Michigan State / Rey Del Rio/GettyImages

Let’s start with the bad news. The bad news is this Michigan State basketball team looks lost. Even Oceanic flight 815 looks at this team and says “yikes.”

Tom Izzo has continually said that this team lacks leadership and it’s never been more apparent than at the most critical time of the season. While the last three losses contain a myriad of reasons why the Spartans have come up short, the consistent theme is lack of energy and to make matters worse, when things go wrong, there is no one to put the team back together so they team just drowns slowly into the quicksand.

Against Minnesota, Golden Gophers head coach Ben Johnson called a timeout with 13:16 after Tre Holloman built the Spartans’ lead to 9, which is what normal coaches do (unlike Izzo who likes to call the timeout once about three possessions after the opponent’s run gets out of hand). The Spartans got lazy, missing their next nine shots while the Gophers were able to regroup, surging to a one-point lead in just over five minutes of game time.

Against Iowa, Holloman hit a 3-pointer to give the Spartans the lead and the Hawkeyes were begging the Spartans to take over the game early. Instead, the Hawkeyes took over, making five of their next six shots and adding three free throws in as well. As soon as the Spartans started sinking, they never recovered. Any time the offense showed signs of life, the defense would let up easy points. When the defense held its own, the Spartans missed open shots or would inexplicably run a post play that resulted in, you guessed it, no points.

Yesterday was no exception. Nine points in the last 12 minutes of the game, Tyson Walker missing all four of his 3-point attempts, two of which where he could not have been more open. He ended up going 3-for-10 from the field in the second half which continues his second-half woes; in the second half of the Spartans’ last three losses, Walker is 1-for-10 from deep. I can see how an injury would affect his lay up and driving ability, but the open threes have nothing to do with a groin injury. Like Connor said, he’s a shell of himself. Yes, he has a ton of double-digit games, but they’re the quietest 12 points I can remember.

The good news is that the 2014-15 team that went to the Final Four also lost four home games that season including terrible losses to Texas Southern and Illinois. But that’s where the similarities between those two teams end. That team averaged 40 rebounds a game. There were leaders on that team in Denzel Valentine and Travis Trice. Brandon Dawson was an absolute dog that season, grabbing nine rebounds a game and earning a spot on the Big Ten All-Defensive team. Travis Trice willed that team to a Final Four, scoring clutch baskets and winning Regional MVP. When the team needed a bucket, Trice was there to deliver every single time.

Apart from Malik Hall in a few rare spots, there are no closers on this team. Walker, AJ Hoggard, and Hall all missed free throws down the stretch that the team needed. Jaden Akins, a junior, had a fantastic three-week stretch but can’t buy a bucket in the last three games. Tre Holloman has hit a wall but that doesn’t excuse the turnovers he’s had the last few games. I have a lot to say about the veterans at the five-position but everybody knows their shortcomings by now, no need to pile on.

When every player not named Hall is in a slump, that’s on the coaching staff. Not coming out “with energy” is mostly on the coaching staff. Lineup combinations that I wouldn’t put out against Lake Orion High School are on the coaching staff.

Yes, this MSU team will probably make the tournament. But there is no tangible evidence that they’ll play more than two games. Before last Tuesday, they were trending up with hopes of making a 5/6-seed. Now? A 10-seed; need an upset just to lose by 19 to a 1-seed.

Outside of a good (not great) Sweet 16 run last year, the last four years have been a complete disaster. This used to be a school where players were guaranteed a Final Four run if they stayed four years. Hall and Steven Izzo are the only players on the roster who have a Big Ten title and it’s only because of a free COVID-19 year. This is the longest drought between Big Ten regular-season or tournament titles since 2001-09 and sprinkled in there was a Final Four in 2005.

This team isn’t making a Final Four, they aren’t winning the Big Ten Tournament, and I don’t see any evidence of this thing turning around quickly.

The Spartans will lose at Purdue for the 1,000th consecutive time, then they’ll play a Northwestern team that embarrassed them back in January, then finish on the road to an NIT-level Indiana team which MSU has had an issue with bad teams lately. There is no chance I watch the Purdue game and any game after that will be a game-time decision. I never thought I would reach levels of apathy that match the 2023 MSU football team after the Rutgers game. After the Ohio State game, I truly wanted the season to be over because I hated how this team has made me feel. At least football’s expectation was a bowl game.

This team was supposed to contend for a national title. They were supposed to challenge Purdue for the Big Ten crown. Michigan State basketball has woefully underachieved for the better part of four years and if Izzo is so insistent on doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, it’s in this program’s best interest to not employ the insane.

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