With the Michigan State men’s basketball’s 2022-23 season just around the corner, there’s an elephant in the room that MSU fans are inquiring about.
How will MSU fare with a significantly smaller rotation than normal, particularly with a lack of experience at center?
The shrunken rotation has everything to do with the transfer portal and Izzo's loyalty to his players.
“I don’t know if anybody understands the portal and I'm not sure I do. It’s new for all of us,” Head Coach Tom Izzo said. “I’ve always said that you do have an obligation to your kids and if they’re doing the things you need them to do, they deserve an opportunity."
Izzo plans to rely on the chemistry with his guys that he believes is evident. He also said he's not too worried about injuries either, despite MSU already being bitten by the injury bug this fall.
However, there are pros and cons to a compact rotation. There are aspects of the game that MSU will need to dial in on this season that are more crucial to their performance, specifically rebounding.
“We’re reminding everyone, even me, that we gotta get rebounds," senior guard Tyson Walker said. "We can’t just leave it to the big dudes cause we’re not undersized, but we’re not gonna be as big as we were last year."
Despite challenges with rebounding, MSU has some size advantage that will benefit them especially on the wing positions.
“We do have some size,” graduate student forward Joey Hauser said. “With Malik playing three, he’s bigger than most three men, Pierre Brooks, two-three spots. We’ve got some size in some areas, but rebounding is going to be really important and defending as well.”
So, what’s the game plan? How will Izzo execute both Big Ten play and probably his most difficult non-conference season in MSU history? All of these objectives raise the question of what MSU’s versatile team will look like come Nov. 7.
“We’re just making sure that we’re conditioned and working on our stamina,” sophomore guard Jaden Akins said. “Getting up and down we wanna play fast but you’ve got to be in shape to do that. Coach has talked about some things that we’re still practicing really hard, but also cutting out some stuff because of the amount of guys that we got to make sure everybody is ready to go.”
Izzo said if he were to utilize the portal, it might’ve been at the center. There are not a ton of centers lined up, making it even more difficult to make that type of decision.
“Coach Izzo’s loyal to his guys and he will be till the day he dies,” Hauser said. “He shows it. He’s not just talk, and it shows a lot of trust that he has in the guys that he has. We all believe in ourselves and I'm sure if he would have asked us, we didn’t feel there was any need to find anybody in the transfer portal. It’s really going to benefit us.”
Izzo’s faith in his guys sets him apart from others in the league. Looking at the upcoming matchups, it’s going to be difficult for MSU with a lack of proven depth and inability to easily switch guys in and out. Izzo posed the possibility of a 1-7 non-conference run, results that could cause fans to question his roster.
“I could've gone and replaced half of you,” Izzo said. “But I believed in you and I'm hanging with you and we’re gonna go to war together and we're going to see what happens. But I promise you this, there will be somebody in that group who ends up a lot better than we realized because they’ve gone through the process, they learned how to fail, they learned how to succeed and I'm damn proud of them for that.”
MSU will jump into its 2022-23 season with an exhibition game versus Grand Valley State on Nov. 1 at The Breslin Center. Tipoff will be at 7 p.m. on Big Ten Plus.
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