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Jaren Jackson, Jr. (3J) (PHOTO:  Duffy Carpenter @DuffyCarpenter1 )

Jaren Jackson, Jr. (3J) (PHOTO: Duffy Carpenter @DuffyCarpenter1 )


Three up or down: the three Parts of the #1 Michigan State basketballthat are trending up or down now.

  1. DOWN Bipolar Halves This Spartan team is loaded top to bottom. Finding warts is not easy, but that doesn’t mean it is impossible. The Spartans have yet to play a complete game. Their best basketball is still yet to be seen. That is the challenge for the Hall of Fame head coach who admitted it, “I still think the goal’s got to be putting two halves together. We have been a little inconsistent in that area, and so we’ve got a lot of things to get better at and we’re going to get better at them.”
  2. UP Jaren Jackson, Jr. (3J) He is an amazing young person off the court and a star that is getting better every week. Nearly every game he does something to dazzle his coach, teammates, and fans. Izzo said, “I think Jaren is a special player, and tonight was one of those nights that he didn’t score as much, although he hit that big 3 early, but he really didn’t score as much, and he didn’t play a ton of minutes only because with different line-ups, and they went really small and that creates some problems for us so we tried to change it up, and we went small and put him at the five and Miles at the four a little bit, but Jaren is a special kid. He can put it on the floor, that spin move, and dunk. He makes his free throws usually. He’s just an incredible shot blocker, and yet, as I told him, you got to keep growing on the rebounding. We’ve got to do a better job on the offensive boards. We only had two at halftime. I don’t know what we ended up with, probably not more than seven. We didn’t do as good a job on that as we did last time, but Jaren just turned 18 a couple months ago, so he’s still a work in progress and the work is getting better each and every week.”
  3. UP The SpartansMSU (27-3, 15-2 Big Ten) Enough said.  Illinois head coach Brad Underwoodtold me just how good he thinks your Spartans are, “They’re really good. I think the only thing that is, when they see a Villanova-type, full out, a one-end team who has really athletic guards, but Tom’s teams are so good. They dominate you on the glass. They have such depth. Cassius (Winston) was much better tonight than he was the first game against us. When he plays like that, this is a heck of a basketball team. They don’t have many weaknesses. I think they’re really capable of winning the whole thing.”

EXTRA POINT: Despite all of the off-court turmoil the Spartans are strong. They know their character. They know each other and this band of brothers is locked in. Izzo loves that and addressed it. “I don’t want to be corny, but the love and the togetherness. I’ve had teams that are together, I’m just not sure I’ve had teams that have that sincere love and appreciation for each other and that’s not a word to use a lot in major college football or basketball. There’s not even a question in my mind that these guys have a bond that will never be separated. I mean, I can see those guys coming back for five-year or 10-year reunions, 20-year reunions. Like Steve Mariucci and I, even if we don’t see each other for a long time, when we get back together it will be tighter than tight. I think that and the fact that they are so humble and so un-entitled.”

Izzo added, “You know this day and age there’s just not a lot of un-entitled people and I think all of you that have covered us might not like me all the time, but it’s hard not to like them all the time. I think that’s the difference. They have goals, they want to accomplish their goals, they are willing to work for their goals, they are ready to share for their goals. There is no me, me, me. I talk to some of the other coaches around the country right now that are struggling right now a little bit, and guys start playing for the NBA or guys start playing for this or that, I just never even hear them talk about it and that’s unbelievable to me.”

Izzo finished with, “But, that is a lot Miles (Bridges) because he didn’t talk about it last year, last year I just assumed that he was gone, but I was only assuming because he never would talk about it. He hasn’t talked about it this year either. I might assume as much in the same way, but I just think it’s amazing how the humility that he has and Tum (Nairn Jr.) has and it kind of branches out to our whole team. I think they are role models, I think they are kids that people should look up to and that’s pretty awesome.”

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