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2022-’23 Michigan State Spartans Basketball Season Preview

BTPowerhouse previews the upcoming season for the Michigan State Spartans and what fans should expect from the program heading into the 2022-’23 season.

Michigan State v Illinois Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

The 2022-’23 ‘BTPowerhouse Season Preview’ series will take an in-depth look at all 14 teams in the Big Ten heading into the 2022-’23 season with analysis on each program’s previous season, offseason departures, new additions, strengths, weakness, top player, and top storylines. Each post will also include predictions on each team’s starting lineup, season performance and commentary from a local “insider” who covers said team.

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Last season Michigan State had a second straight “down” year under head coach Tom Izzo. Though the team kept the NCAA Tournament streak alive and greatly improved its overall wins record, the Big Ten record column merely flipped from 9-11 to 11-9 with a seven seed for the Big Ten Tournament. A tough second round matchup against Duke went well at first, but saw the Spartans fall to Coach K yet again, though for the final time ever, ending the season much the same as so many prior.

The Spartans saw a number of key departures this offseason, but also gains an exciting incoming class in East Lansing, however.

In the meantime, Coach Izzo remains the man in charge, though yet another change at the assistant level this season. MSU is facing one of the most daunting non-conference schedules in its history under Izzo, though, with a shallow roster of scholarship players and questions abound on the front court. Can Michigan State manage to survive the season with the NCAA Tournament streak intact, let alone make noise in the Big Ten to improve its previous poor finishes the past two seasons?

1. 2021-’22 Season Performance

  • Record: 23-13 (11-9)
  • KenPom Team Rating: #42
  • NET Rating: #38
  • Postseason Appearance: NCAA Tournament (Second Round)

Michigan State started off last season unranked, but had some early success in November. Wins at Butler, then neutral court victories in the Bahamas Battle 4 Atlantis over a tough Loyola-Chicago squad and No. 22 UConn sent MSU into the top-25 despite ending the tournament with a double-digit loss to Baylor.

From there, MSU rattled off nine straight victories, climbing as high as No. 10 in the polls before a home loss to Northwestern. A road win at Wisconsin got MSU back to No. 10, but from there the Spartans lost eight of the final 13 games of the regular season.

Michigan State managed to notch another big win over Wisconsin in the Big Ten Tournament and advance to the semifinals, but fell to Purdue. The NCAA Tournament streak continued for yet another year and a matchup against Davidson with former Spartan Foster Loyer awaited the team in Greenville, South Carolina.

MSU escaped the Wildcats with a one-point victory before falling to two seed Duke in the Second Round. The final score, 76-85, makes the game feel much less close than it was throughout most of the action. It also placed the MSU-Duke matchups all-time in the NCAA Tournament as the second most in tournament history at seven, trailing only Kentucky-Marquette.

2. Offseason Exits

The Spartans lost five players from last season’s roster, two who chose to forgo extra years of eligibility offered by Covid, one freshman happy to take advantage of his draft stock, and two others to transfers.

Five-star recruit and freshman star Max Christie was the early departure. Christie was drafted in the second round by the LA Lakers and is a big potential loss on the offensive end. As the season progressed, Christie struggled on offense, but could have certainly used the offseason to improve his game and have a phenomenal sophomore year had he returned.

Most importantly for Michigan State’s 2022-’23 roster is Marcus Bingham’s departure. Bingham chose to skip out on his extra year of eligibility and go pro, leaving a big hole at the center position compounded by fellow big man Julius Marble’s transfer to Texas A&M to be closer to his family. Marble’s father passed away in February 2021.

Gabe Brown also opted to leave for the pros after his senior season rather than take an extra year. Freshman Peter Nwoke transferred to Southern Indiana as well. Graduate student Michael Peterson also exhausted eligibility. He was a transfer walk-on last season who suffered a season ending injury early in the year.

It is unclear if football players Maliq Carr and Keon Coleman will remain two-sport athletes this season. Both were on the roster for basketball last season, but are not at present listed on the basketball roster and the football season remains in full swing.

3. New Additions

This season, the Spartans bring in a big class of promising freshman while intentionally refusing to explore the transfer portal in a bid for roster continuity. To everyone not named Tom Izzo, including most Michigan State fans, that decision seems puzzling when noting how shallow the roster is in the front court and how tough it will be on players during the season with three scholarships left available.

As for the 2022 recruiting class, it includes two four-star players ranked in the top-80 nationally per 247Sports.

Four-star power forward Jaxon Kohler headlines the 2022 class. The big man hails from Castaic, California where he played for Southern California Academiy. He was ranked the No. 8 PF in the 2022 class nationally and the No. 58 player in his class overall. Kohler is likely to see a starting role develop at some point this season, if not from the outset. The 6-foot-10 freshman may also be pressed into service for minutes at center as well given how limited Michigan State is in its roster at the position.

The other big name of the 2022 class includes four-star point guard Tre Holloman out of Saint Paul, Minnesota. Given the number of point guards and talent of them ahead of him, his minutes may be limited as a result despite being the No. 12 PG in his class and No. 78 player nationally.

Also, Carson Cooper was added late as a reclassified center prospect out of IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. At first Cooper was discussed as being a redshirt this season, but the refusal to add more scholarship depth on the roster renders that impossible. Izzo has used the excuse that Cooper is “further along” than expected.

Finally, walk-on Nick Sanders, son of legendary Detroit Lions running back Barry Sanders, has joined Michigan State’s roster as a walk-on.

4. Points of Optimism

The backcourt point guard tandem of AJ Hoggard and Tyson Walker is one of the most complementary duos in the country heading into this season. Both point guards bring a unique skill set while being capable of running the offense competently. That will be a huge asset for this team as the MSU offense always relies on skilled point guard play to a degree that can exceed other programs in vulnerability when not featuring an elite point guard on the roster.

The other strength of the team is a core of talent on the wing that should help in scoring and defense. Players like Malik Hall and Pierre Brooks should be ones the squad can rely on when healthy for helping to get stops and make buckets on either end.

Finally, Joey Hauser was starting to truly show progress at the end of last season. While not someone who is indicating he will ever live up to the hype he was given when he initially transferred to Michigan State, Hauser was providing solid minutes by the end of last season. That is absolutely mandatory for this team to see him continue that progress if it hopes to maintain its NCAA Tournament streak when combined with how shallow the roster is in the front court.

5. Points of Concern

I have harped on it a number of times, but the roster depth is a big issue. Already in the preseason it is a problem with Jaden Akins having not practiced for over a month due to an injury. With just 10 players on scholarship, that leaves little depth at most positions on the roster.

In addition to the shallowness of the roster overall, the center spot is particularly glaring for Michigan State. The team has one player returning at the position, Mady Sissoko, who has not been a significant contributor generally in the job. After Sissoko, the only true center on the roster is freshman Carson Cooper with Jaxon Kohler poised to potentially contribute in the role as well. If the Spartans have to resort to Joey Hauser at center because of foul trouble or injury, this season is doomed.

Finally, that non-conference schedule is absolutely insane. Michigan State in the first three games of the season will play the No. 2 team in the AP preseason poll on an aircraft carrier flight deck and the No. 4 team on a neutral court. Two other games in the first five are against teams in the preseason top-25 with potentially more than that possible based on the PK85 Tournament results in the early rounds. Even by Tom Izzo standards, that schedule is quite possibly unprecedented in difficulty for a Power Six program. Escaping it with enough wins scraped together to be in a position for a NCAA Tournament bid come March with a shallow roster might be one of Izzo’s best coaching jobs ever if it happens.

6. Top Player

I think this season is the year of AJ Hoggard. The point guard had a great season last year and should start his junior season with plenty of confidence. If he can build on that this year and improve his game even further, it will prove a vital service for the team.

Besides Hoggard, a breakout year by Hauser building on his progress late last season is certainly not impossible to imagine for the graduate student. Similarly, Tyson Walker finding his confidence after his first season of Big Ten play and showing the elite shooting he had at Northeastern is also possible.

7. 2020-’21 Schedule Breakdown

  • 11/1 - Grand Valley State (Ex.)
  • 11/7 - Northern Arizona
  • 11/11 - Gonzaga (San Diego, CA)
  • 11/15 - Kentucky (Indianapolis, IN)
  • 11/18 - Villanova
  • 11/24 - Alabama (Portland, OR)
  • 11/25 - Oregon/UConn (Portland, OR)
  • 11/27 - TBA (Portland, OR)
  • 11/30 - at Notre Dame
  • 12/4 - Northwestern
  • 12/7 - at Penn State
  • 12/10 - Brown
  • 12/21 - Oakland
  • 12/30 - Buffalo
  • 1/3 - Nebraska
  • 1/7 - Michigan
  • 1/10 - at Wisconsin
  • 1/13 - at Illinois
  • 1/16 - Purdue
  • 1/19 - Rutgers
  • 1/22 - at Indiana
  • 1/26 - Iowa
  • 1/29 - at Purdue
  • 2/4 - Rutgers (TBD)
  • 2/7 - Maryland
  • 2/12 - at Ohio State
  • 2/15 - Minnesota
  • 2/18 - at Michigan
  • 2/21 - Indiana
  • 2/25 - at Iowa
  • 2/28 - at Nebraska
  • 3/4 - Ohio State

Just one last time here, that non-conference schedule is insane in difficulty. Obviously the most unique game, and highest ranked opponent, will be the matchup against Gonzaga on the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72). Matchups against Kentucky (neutral), Villanova, Alabama (neutral), and at Notre Dame are also all tricky ones. That’s not even looking at the final two games in Portland as part of the PK85.

As for Big Ten action, the Spartans get to play Michigan twice, obviously, which will be tricky. In particular, the visit to East Lansing benefits the Wolverines as it will be right before students fully return to campus for the start of the spring semester on Jan. 9. Also tough is the lone matchups against Illinois and Wisconsin both coming on the road. MSU also plays Penn State just once, that game coming on the road after MSU lost there just last season.

Other double play pairings come against Indiana, Rutgers, Ohio State, Purdue, and Iowa. All of those opponents, in particular IU, Ohio State, and Purdue, pose difficult matchups in both home and away settings. The visit to Rutgers does look like it will be moved to Madison Square Garden, however.

The toughest stretch of the league schedule at first glance, though, is essentially the entire month of January after the visit by Nebraska.

  • 1/7 - Michigan
  • 1/10 - at Wisconsin
  • 1/13 - at Illinois
  • 1/16 - Purdue
  • 1/19 - Rutgers
  • 1/22 - at Indiana
  • 1/26 - Iowa
  • 1/29 - at Purdue
  • 2/4 - Rutgers (TBD)

Even the home matchups in those games are by no means ones fans can look at and automatically feel comfortable to be wins.

8. Projected Starting Lineup

  • PG: AJ Hoggard (Jr.) - 95%
  • SG: Pierre Brooks (So.) - 80%
  • SF: Malik Hall (Jr.) - 95%
  • PF: Joey Hauser (Gr. St.) - 50%
  • C: Maddy Sissoko (Jr.) - 100%

(Percentage likelihood of starting at season tip-off.)

I am fairly confident Hoggard will be the starter at point guard, but Tyson Walker will be on the court plenty this season as well. MSU might even play a two point guard lineup frequently this year given the talent of the two.

As for shooting guard, the depth is on the weaker side here. In part, that is the case early on due to Jaden Akins ongoing recovery. Malik Hall is the obvious starter at the three position, but after him it is a question mark as to which player will spot minutes at the three versus the two.

As for the front court, it seems likely Hauser will continue to see heavy minutes, at least early on. Whether he gets the start right from the get go or comes in as a sixth man is tough to say, however. Last season he seemed to do better coming off the bench, and Jaxon Kohler is a phenomenal athlete who has the potential to play valuable minutes from the start. That is a tough schedule to start with and at the end of the day he is merely a freshman, though.

Sissoko at center is the obvious choice if for no other reason than there aren’t other options. Carson Cooper will have to be called on as a freshman to give valuable minutes, but the idea a player who was taking a gap year then reclassified to redshirt and is now going to play due to lack of bodies is going to turn out to be starting caliber is unlikely.

9. Team Perspective From Paul Fanson of The Only Colors

In the middle of January last year, the Michigan State Spartans were 14-2 (5-0), ranked in the top 10, and potentially the favorite to win another Big Ten title. But Michigan State hit the skids and finished the regular season at just 20-11 (11-9) before rallying in the postseason. The Spartan advanced to the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament and came within about three minutes of putting Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski into earlier retirement in the NCAA Tournament Round of 32.

Gone from the team due to graduation are senior captain Gabe Brown and senior center Marcus Bingham. Freshman guard Max Christie opted for the NBA draft after a year in East Lansing, while junior Julius Marble decided to complete his basketball career (and engineering degree) closer to home at Texas A&M. Brown, Bingham, and Christie were Michigan State’s top three scorers in 2021-22, which is likely the reason that the Spartans are once again unranked and picked outside of the top three in the Big Ten to start the 2022-23 season.

Despite this lost production, Michigan State returns a proven group of veterans. The backcourt might just be the best in the conference, especially at the point where junior A.J. Hoggard will likely get the start next to senior combo guard, three-point sniper, and defensive pest Tyson Walker. Walker showed flashes of brilliance last year in his first year with the program after transferring up from Northeastern.

Hoggard and Walker will be joined in the backcourt by super-athletic sophomore Jaden Akins, sophomore Pierre Brooks (both of whom may be primed for a breakout season), and freshman combo guard Tre Holloman who has the potential to contribute right away.

The ”four” spot also appears to be in very good shape with the return of senior forward Malik Hall and sixth-year senior Joey Hauser. Both players have had an enigmatic run during their time in East Lansing, but both have also shown flashes of All-Big Ten level performance. Hall will likely see time in the back court, while Hauser may log some minutes at center. Both players shot over 40 percent last year from deep.

The only real question mark on the roster is the center position where Coach Izzo is hoping for a major jump from foul prone junior Mady Sissoko. Otherwise, the Spartans will be relying on true freshmen Jaxon Kohler and Carson Cooper. Kohler comes in with reputation as a natural scorer, but it is unclear if any of the Spartan big men will be able to play defense up to Tom Izzo’s standard.

That all said, it is much better to have a question mark at the center position that in the backcourt. Despite the departures, Michigan State returns a bevy of talent and experience and still has one of the best coaches in America. The Spartans will likely take their lumps during one of the most brutal non-conference schedules ever assembled, but don’t be shocked to see Coach Izzo and company hanging another banner or two once March rolls around.

- Paul Fanson

10. Overall Season Outlook

Michigan State is a tough team to peg. There is plenty of talent, but little depth. The Big Ten is looking to be down overall this year, so that should help cushion a rough non-conference schedule record in terms of March hopes. At the end of the day, though, a losing record in the non-conference is entirely plausible looking at that schedule.

Despite the tough schedule, even in conference play, this team can make it difficult for everyone if playing at full potential. A few upsets in the non-conference and a strong showing in league play should all but ensure Michigan State is once again dancing come March.

If anyone expects this squad to win a Big Ten title, though, they are wearing the greenest shade of glasses when making that prediction.

Big Ten Prediction: 5th Place*

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[Editor’s Note - The projected Big Ten finish here is by Thomas Beindit.]