All season long Michigan State has made it difficult to find silver linings in their losses. Especially in the month of February, their blunders came almost exclusively off of self-inflicted wounds.
In the Big Ten Tournament however, those errors were less catastrophic. Of course letting a 20 point lead slip away on Thursday to Maryland probably gave many fans headaches. However, even after falling to Purdue in the Semi Final, the Spartans should be holding their heads high on the bus ride back to East Lansing.
MSU had more turnovers against Maryland (16), then they did in the proceeding two games combined (11). Each of the three contests featured a breakout performance as well. Max Christie finally developed a rhythm offensively with 16 points in the victory over the Terrapins. Marcus Bingham Jr. tied his career high of 19 points against Wisconsin, and AJ Hoggard carried the Michigan State offense the entire second half in the Purdue game.
The effort and intensity was also present for the Spartans all three days. Defense was most likely the focus in the practices leading up to the tournament, and it was made apparent when Wisconsin’s Johnny Davis was held to 3-for-19 shooting. Although MSU wasn’t able to replicate the same effort against Jaden Ivey, an argument could be made that if they were on the right side of a couple more plays, the result may have ended in their favor.
Winning the whole tournament would have been quite the accomplishment for Michigan State. However, making it to semi final Saturday is something they can hang their hat on. One last test remains for Tom Izzo’s squad. If he can rally the troops one more time and build on the positives from these last three days, another run might just be in store.
Tyson Walker Will Be Missed
With just one minute remaining against the Badgers, Tyson Walker hit a mid range jump shot off of a pick and roll like he had done so many times this season. Just one minute into the game against the Boilermakers, Walker was on the sidelines after rolling his ankle.
The transfer guard sat out the entire second half, and Tom Izzo did not offer much optimism on his playing status for the NCAA tournament after the game. AJ Hoggard more than stepped up in his absence, even after rolling his ankle as well. But two is better than one, and Michigan State will miss Tyson Walker if he is forced to miss time.
The Spartans would be without more than just Walkers clutch factor. His efficiency out of the pick and roll has helped them out of a lot of stagnant offensive possessions. The clip at which he shoots the three pointer is almost as good as the rate he hits his favorite mid range shot.
Tom Izzo would probably like to not play Max Christie or Jaden Akins as his third point guard if he doesn’t have to. But in the late stages of the Purdue loss, AJ Hoggard seemed to be too fatigued to play defense. When it comes to playing in the Big Dance, guard play is more crucial than ever. The fact that Michigan State could be without their starting floor general in its first round matchup, is concerning.
Marcus Bingham Jr. Can Be A Game Changer
The performance Marcus Bingham Jr. had on Friday night was what MSU fans have been coveting for a long time. 19 points, 11 rebounds, and 3 blocks made for arguably his best game in a Spartans uniform. Teams just cannot seem to stop him from finishing alley-oop slam dunks and he is shooting the long ball with more confidence every time he takes the floor.
How he was a catalyst in the upset over Wisconsin perfectly demonstrates how beneficial he can be for Michigan State on both sides of the floor. Grabbing important rebounds on defense and taking smart shots on offense can go a long way. MSU’s chances of scoring increase automatically when Bingham Jr. gets a post touch. He isn’t viewed as someone opposing teams have to double team and he takes advantage of it.
The senior’s career may be coming to an end, but he knows it isn’t too late for him to make an impact. Unless matched up against Zach Edey, he can get you a stop and a rebound more often than not. When Bingham Jr. is involved and engaged, Michigan State is a different team. The key is putting him in situations that allow him to do so. Set him up in the post and give him the green light from 3-point land and he may just go on a scoring run all by himself.
Marcus Bingham Jr. must be part of the game plan moving forward for Tom Izzo. His confidence is at an all time high, now it’s just time to let him loose.
Turnovers No Longer an Issue?
Three easy takeaways from the Big Ten Tournament for Michigan State could be that they lasted three days. However, they were very close to being sent home on day one, nearly blowing a 20 point lead to Maryland. The Terrapins scored 24 points off of 16 MSU turnovers to spark their comeback. Survive and advance is the motto of College Basketball in March, and that is exactly what the Spartans did.
The next day offered an opportunity to right their wrongs. As a result, Michigan State looked like a completely different team. Turnovers had been a thorn in the side of this team all season long and suddenly it had vanished. MSU coughed up the ball to Wisconsin only seven times, with only one of them coming in the second half. Consequently, the offense was more free flowing and the Badgers weren’t able to catch the defense off guard. In the end the Spartans ended up winning by six points in a game that they most likely would have lost if it weren’t for them taking care of the basketball.
The trend continued Saturday against Purdue as the Boilermakers were only able to come up with four takeaways. It was the lowest amount of turnovers Michigan State had given up in a game since November of 2019. However, what hurt them was offensive rebounds. The Boilermakers scored 22 second chance points on 14 offensive rebounds which proved to be just as painful as turning the ball over for MSU.
None the less it’s a positive takeaway for the Spartans heading into the NCAA tournament. They were able to see what kind of team they can be when they aren’t constantly hurting themselves with turnovers. The offense opens up tremendously and the defense isn’t forced to play on its heels. If Michigan State builds on this small victory and carries it into the tournament, who knows how far they can go.
For more MSU Athletics Content, follow Alex Mayer on Twitter; @almay_99
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