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'We accomplished more than anyone thought of us in the first place': Despite Sweet 16 defeat, MSU exceeds expectations

March 23, 2023
<p>Junior guard AJ Hoggard and his teammates disappointed after the loss in the Sweet Sixteen matchup against Kansas State University at Madison Square Garden on March 23, 2023.</p>

Junior guard AJ Hoggard and his teammates disappointed after the loss in the Sweet Sixteen matchup against Kansas State University at Madison Square Garden on March 23, 2023.

Photo by Audrey Richardson | The State News

Prior to the start of Michigan State Men’s Basketball’s 2022-23 season, skepticism arose on how the Spartans would fare with the obvious obstacles at hand — whether they had to do with the lack of depth, absence of an experienced center or the rigorous non-conference schedule ahead. This caused fans to question just how successful the Spartans would be by the time the final buzzer blared.

Flash forward to the Spartans' Sweet 16 appearance. MSU and Kansas State went head-to-head until the clock ran down to its final second. Senior guard Tyson Walker sent MSU into overtime when he drove to the basket and tossed the ball up with five seconds remaining. Although KSU ultimately outlasted the green and white to advance to the Elite Eight, MSU still feels pretty proud of the season they had, all things considered.

“We had our issues during the year and watched guys grow at the end and buy in,” head men’s basketball coach Tom Izzo said. “That’s what happens, when you buy in and trust the coach and the coach trusts the players, some cool things can happen."

Senior forward Malik Hall endured his fair share of adversity over his four years in green and white. However, this season proved to be the most difficult. After an injury that cost Hall a majority of playing time his senior season, the veteran feels grateful to have been given some time back in the tournament. He’s proud to be able to look back at the season and the progress MSU made, contrary to preseason expectations.

“It’s been a hell of a year, a lot of bumps personally and with our team in general,” Hall said. “Nobody thought we were gonna be here anyways, so I think we accomplished more than anyone thought of us in the first place.”

Each of the four teams Hall played on were different from the last. He’s had his fair share of Spartan victories accompanied by heart-wrenching losses. At the end of the day, Hall’s thankful to be in the position he's in with the team he has. Most people don’t get a chance to face off at The Garden not once, but twice, and the senior recognizes that

“If you really take the time, a lot of people don’t get a chance to be in this situation,” Hall said. "There are a lot of people at home watching this game that wish they could’ve been in our shoes. I think it’s always something to be proud of, every opportunity that every single one of us have had at this university. It’s something that a lot of us don’t get.”

After 28 seasons as head coach and 40 total at MSU, Izzo has coached plenty of good teams and not quite as many great ones. Players have come and gone, teams have ebbed and flowed

The veteran coach has watched as his previous teams receive the same amount of preseason doubt the 2022-23 Spartan lineup dealt with, and sometimes the concern was justified come the regular season and NCAA Tournament to follow. This was not one of those teams.

“For some reason, I believed in this team all year long,” Izzo said. “It will go down as one of the great years for me, not a good year.”

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