The look ahead continues today for BT Powerhouse as we take a look at the Michigan State Spartans and the questions around that program headed into the 2022-23 season.
Will Michigan State be okay at center?
The Spartans saw Marcus Bingham Jr. pass on another year in East Lansing and depart for the professional ranks. Also gone is Julius Marble II as he left for Texas A&M via the transfer portal to be closer to family. Even walk-on big man Peter Nwoke transferred out of the program for Southern Indiana.
Head coach Tom Izzo refused to go after anyone in the portal, and that seems to have potentially paid off big time in terms of recruiting for the 2023 class. However, in the short term that leaves just Mady Sissoko returning for his junior season and incoming 6-foot-10 and 220-pound freshman Carson Cooper who initially was discussing redshirting.
Sissoko’s season high in minutes last season came March 1 at Michigan when he played a grand total of 12 against the Wolverines in Ann Arbor. He averaged just 4.6 minutes per game, down from 5.5 his freshman year, and averaged just 1.1 points and 1.1 rebounds per game. Even plugging in an undersized player for the center role like Joey Hauser, the Spartans are horribly underserved in bodies that can fill the big man role for the team.
In a league like the Big Ten, this seems like a glaring flaw. Will it prove to be one by the time March rolls around?
Will the point guard duo be the best in the country?
Compared to the big roster gap in the front court, Michigan State does not have question marks at the point guard role with both AJ Hoggard and Tyson Walker returning to East Lansing for the season. The duo poses one of the best combination threats at the role in the country.
Tyson Walker enters his senior season this year after transferring to Michigan State last season and averaging 8.2 ppg, 0.9 spg, 1.3 rpg, and 4.3 apg. Walker looks to benefit from a year getting comfortable with the increased level of play offered by Big Ten opponents. That should come in handy as MSU looks to replace the shooting threats of Gabe Brown and Max Christie in the backcourt.
Hoggard, meanwhile, enters his junior season after experiencing somewhat of a breakout last season that saw him average 7.0 ppg, 0.7 spg, 2.3 rpb, and 4.8 apg. He has a strong presence on the court and has shown himself to be a growing threat driving to the rim.
It’s expected that the duo will be one of the best in the country. However, will they prove to be even better?
Can Michigan State survive its non-conference with the NCAA streak intact?
Izzo’s play anyone, anywhere mentality is once again being shown to be more than just a talking point. The Spartans face one of the most daunting non-conference schedules in his tenure this year as Michigan State will face Gonzaga in a neutral court game on San Diego Bay aboard the US Navy’s Nimitz-class carrier the USS Abraham Lincoln on Veteran’s Day.
Kentucky will be another neutral court matchup in Indianapolis in the Champions Classic. Villanova visits East Lansing as part of the Gavitt Tipoff Games along with a trip to South Bend for the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
That’s in addition to a Big Ten slate that will include road trips to Illinois and Wisconsin. Even more rough will be home and away matchups against Michigan, Rutgers, Indiana, Purdue, Iowa, and Ohio State.
Izzo’s Spartans have reached 24 straight NCAA Tournaments to date. However, can a roster with just 10 scholarship players and two centers keep that streak alive and make it 25? It could be one of the toughest feats of his many teams roads yet.