As we enter the fall season and college football gets underway, college basketball is right around the corner. As always, to prepare you for the season, Land-Grant Holy Land will be publishing Big Ten Team Previews and Ohio State Basketball Player Previews, starting now with the Team Previews.
Team: Michigan State Spartans
Head coach: Tom Izzo | 29th Season | 686-278 (330-160)
2022-23 record: 21-13 (11-8)
All-time record against Ohio State: 78-54
Returners: Jaden Akins, A.J. Hoggard, Tyson Walker, Malik Hall, Mady Sissoko, Jaxon Kohler, Tre Holloman, Carson Cooper
Departures: Joey Hauser, Pierre Brooks
Newcomers: Xavier Booker, Jeremy Fears, Coen Carr, Gehrig Normand
The Spartans are returning most of their production from the Sweet Sixteen run last season and will look to be a national title contender this year, along with Purdue in the Big Ten.
Losing Joey Hauser will affect the Spartans, as they are without his 14.4 points and 7.0 rebounds per game, and Pierre Brooks had high potential for the Spartans, but he was not able to contribute much in East Lansing before transferring to Butler.
A big question mark this season will be the center position for the Spartans. It was their weakness last year, but all three of the centers are back, and all will look to step into the main role. Jaxon Kohler showed the most promise in 2022-23, and should be able to handle a larger role this season.
The X factor on this year’s team is Jaden Akins. Akins is incredibly talented and has All-Big Ten potential, and if he can take that next step and complement AJ Hoggard and Tyson Walker, that trio will be as dynamic as they come.
Michigan State also has a pretty special freshman class coming in. Xavier Booker, Jeremy Fears, Coen Carr and Gehrig Normand will all have valuable roles in the rotation for the Spartans. Carr may be the most exciting, as his athletic ability will turn heads and can help him adjust to the speed of the collegiate game. Jeremy Fears also will see the floor often behind Hoggard and Walker, and will be one of the best back up point guards in the conference.
I believe Michigan State is the best team in the conference. It is a slim margin, but guard play can win championships, and Hoggard, Walker and Akins can lead this team to the promised land. Throw in Malik Hall, an improved Mady Sissoko, and this freshman class, and that can be the recipe for success.
Purdue is still incredibly talented, and Michigan State does not have Zach Edey. There is a scenario this season that Edey averages 20 points and 15 rebounds per game and wins the conference on his own. A determining factor in the Boilermaker’s success will be the progress that Braden Smith and Foster Loyer made over the offseason, which could leave them trailing behind the Spartans if not big enough a step forward.
The freshman class is really what will determine whether this team is a fun Elite Eight team or a real national title contender. Booker is an NBA-level prospect, but there have been questions on whether or not he will be ready on day one or may need a month or two to adjust to the college game.
But with all four freshmen playing valuable minutes for the Spartans, Tom Izzo and the rest of his coaching staff will have the depth in their rotation they have not had in a couple of seasons.