Old News: As Always Spartan Basketball a Work in Progress This Early...

MiketheGovernorHenne

 

MSU early season struggles are old news...Photo courtesy of Mark Boomgaard.
MSU early season struggles are old news...Photo courtesy of Mark Boomgaard.

It is an interesting time of year if you are an MSU basketball fan. December’s headlines usually question MSU’s place among the top twenty-five teams in country. Writers question if the Spartans are as good as their preseason billing and Spartan fans moan about the fall from the top five back into the ‘teens.’ If history serves as any barometer whatsoever, MSU is slightly behind where they probably should be.

 

The off-season injuries were a setback. The loss of Raymar Morgan was bigger than most fans truly realize. Roe is still a work in progress having recovered from numerous injuries and the freshmen (Appling, Payne) are still learning how to play within Izzo’s system. Nix presence in Maui probably could have gotten MSU by UConn, but there are a lot of holes that need to be addressed. Nobody expected MSU to lose their identity with sloppy play and lack of interior toughness and rebounding. Oakland was a step forward, but December is Izzo’s tune-up time.

 

If this team is going to reach its potential, Summers has got to become more consistent. Consistent doesn’t mean that he has to be on fire beyond the arc every night. Summers has to be willing to score the ball in a variety of ways. When his jumper isn’t falling, he needs to get on the boards and play among the trees with his superior athleticism. He has to be good for fifteen points a night and not wait until the last seven minutes to come alive. I think he is the best shooting guard in the conference when he wants to be.

 

Lucas has been incredible. I didn’t think he’d be this far along with his recovery. He is showing signs of regaining his explosiveness and just needs a little time to get back to his old form and he will. 

 

The versatility of Raymar Morgan is missing. We just don’t have a guy that can guard every position on the floor like Morgan could. We don’t have a guy that has his foot speed, his interior scoring ability and offensive rebounding proficiency. Guys like Morgan are rare. Like so many fans last year, I just wanted to see Morgan show up every night with his head in the game. I didn’t think this team would miss him that much, but in all fairness to Raymar, this team is still trying to find a way to replace his production.

 

Sherman is going to be a force before the year is done. He has great touch around the rim. MSU needs to load him up early and get him involved to open things up on the perimeter. You cannot win a National Championship, let alone a Big Ten Championship relying on the three-point line to deliver victories. MSU has to establish the low post early in games moving forward. Defensive stops and rebounding tenacity lead to easy fast break baskets. The sooner MSU returns to this brand of basketball, the sooner it will find itself back on another path toward the championship game.

 

One of the bright spots in MSU’s season is Keith Appling’s on-the-ball defense. Michigan State has been missing a ‘stopper’ on the perimeter. Travis Walton was the last player MSU had that wore the badge of defensive specialist as if it were his nametag. Appling has the potential to be this guy, but also has a good outside game to go with it. If Appling can become MSU’s defensive stopper, it will really help Kalin and Korie run the point more effectively.

 

Draymond Green is a ‘stat stuffer.’ He rebounds, dishes out assists and puts the ball in the basket. His versatility is a real luxury to have. Michigan State just needs to use his strengths and not ask him to do too much. Green’s interior scoring and rebounding is needed. As an undersized power forward, he is a great scoring option down low. Michigan State cannot abandon the post in favor of Green’s ball distribution and three point shooting ability. I want to see Green assert himself on the interior more than he has this season.

 

Nix’s post defense could be the missing piece to this MSU team making huge strides between now and March. Derrick just needs to become the post defender and rebounder he is capable of becoming. Good power players have just hammered us on the interior. This has to change or we will be staring keenly down the barrel of disappointment. This is just not at all what Spartan basketball is about. Nix could change this for MSU. He could really set the tone for our interior defense if he decides to make defense and rebounding his brand. I am holding out hope.

 

As for Michigan State’s position in the Big Ten pecking order, I haven’t seen our brand of basketball consistently yet this season. The Oakland game was a start, but a whole lot more work is needed. I am willing to give this team the benefit of the doubt with such a tough schedule and all of the off-season injuries. It is time to move past those things and start playing like Big Ten Champions again. If history is any predictor, we will see the real Spartans three days after the New Year in Evanston.

THANKS FOR READING SPARTAN NATION
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