This edition of Big Ten basketball previews will feature the Michigan State Spartans. After making the Sweet Sixteen last season, Michigan State brings back almost their entire starting lineup this season. Tom Izzo and the Spartans are starting the season ranked fourth in the AP Poll and are projected to finish second in the Big Ten.
Big Ten Basketball Preview: Michigan State
Michigan State starts with its two stars, A.J. Hoggard and Tyson Walker. Hoggard and Walker were two of Michigan State’s three best scorers in 2022. They will be leading the team again this year. Sparty returns two other starters from last season. They bring back center Mady Sissoko and forward Jaden Akins. Sissoko struggled a bit last year. He only averaged five points per game and was not very active defensively. Akins was an important fourth-scoring option last year. The team’s newest starter will be returning sixth-man Malik Hall. Hall was great off the bench last year and should thrive in a starting role.
Most questions for Michigan State this season will be coming from the bench. Their bench will consist of three elite freshmen from their top-ten recruiting class. The crown jewel of the class is center Xavier Booker, however, Coen Carr has been making headlines this pre-season thanks to his incredible dunks.
Coen Carr doing Coen Carr things. pic.twitter.com/a3on7KcgPI
— SLAM University (@slam_university) October 29, 2023
The biggest strength of the Spartans will be their athleticism. They are fast, strong, and active. This will be great at pressing slower Big Ten teams and will play at a fast tempo.
Their experience will be a strength of the team this season. Their entire starting lineup was with the team last season and most of them were starters last year. One more year of growth in the Big Ten will only help them.
A final strength for Michigan State is its three-point shooting. A rare strength from Big Ten teams, Michigan State ac
The glaring weakness of the team is frontcourt depth. Their starting center, Sissoko, is good but not great. Behind him will be Booker, who is a freshman. There is no proven commodity in the frontcourt. Since the Big Ten is a center-driven conference, this could be a problem for the Spartans.
A second weakness of Michigan State will be its bench. Three of their top bench players will be freshmen. While this is not always a bad thing, you never want to rely on freshmen to win your games. If even one of them does not live up to their recruiting ranking, it could spell trouble for Sparty.
The Verdict: The Spartans Will Be Great this Season
Michigan State is my conference champion pick this season. They were great last season and will probably only get better. Izzo is the best coach in college basketball and I think their main competition, Purdue, will regress. Don’t be surprised if you see Michigan State lifting the Big Ten Championship in March and cutting down the nets in April.