Michigan State Basketball: Not the start fans had hoped for

(Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images) /

Michigan State Basketball came into the year with some big shoes to fill from the previous team we last saw B.C. (Before Covid-19).

There is no surprise; it’s not easy to replace Cassius Winston and Xavier Tillman. Still, through the first six non-conference games of the year, Michigan State basketball looked like they might be a team that would compete in the Big Ten and might even surprise a couple of people.

As we sit here three games deep into Big Ten play, it turns out they did, in fact, surprise a lot of people but not in a good way (at least for Michigan State fans).  Starting conference play 0-3 is not the way anyone had hoped it would go.

It’s not only that they lost, but it’s how they lost.

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Against Northwestern and Minnesota, they never even came within shouting distance of the lead.  Wisconsin was a back and forth game until The Badgers pulled away at the end.

So what happened over the last three games?

Well, for starters, their shooters got cold from three.  In the first half of the Minnesota game, they shot a mere16.7% from three and 15.8% from the field and found themselves in a 20 point hole.  It’s tough to do that on the road and expect to win a game.

The next issue is that they are running into a big question at the point guard position. Sophomore Rocket Watts is primarily a two-guard, and he is trying to play the point guard position, which is a tougher transition than it resembles.

Both of those issues play directly into the next one; it feels like they get into the half-court offense, and there is no flow to the team.  At times it feels like they live by the three and die by the three, and it’s killed them over the last three games.

Lastly, they need someone to emerge as the leader of the team.  When times got tough in games last year, everyone knew Senior Guard Cassius Winston would settle everyone down and lead the team.  Currently, there is not a player that is taking on that role.

Now the big question is, should we panic?

Meh. Having rough patches during the season is not something unheard of for Michigan State basketball.  Even last year, they lost four of five games during Big Ten play.  In 2018 the team that went to the Final Four lost three Big Ten games in a row.

After so many years of doing this, Head Coach Tom Izzo has earned the benefit of the doubt that he will figure something out.  Maybe it’s time to shorten the rotation a little bit to get things going.  AJ Hoggard was a highly rated four-star point guard.   Tom Izzo doesn’t typically play true freshman, but he might have too.

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Michigan States’ next game is at Nebraska on Saturday, January 2nd. Nebraska is also winless to start the Big Ten season.  Hopefully, Michigan State can figure some things out between now and then to try to right the ship.