Not much has gone right for Michigan State's men's basketball program since the 2021-22 season ended with a loss to Duke in the second round of the NCAA Tournament two months ago.
The Spartans had a pair of expected departures in senior Gabe Brown and Marcus Bingham Jr., though both guys had the option of returning to East Lansing due to an extra year of eligibility granted via the COVID-19 waiver.
Roster attrition due to graduation is something that every program deals with, so while the losses of those two starters was less than ideal, it wasn't an unexpected outcome for Michigan State.
It wasn't all bad news on that front for the Spartans, as senior forward Joey Hauser elected to use his extra year of eligibility and return for another season. But Hauser's decision is about the only good news that Michigan State has gotten this offseason.
Veteran center Julius Marble, one of the Spartans' first players off the bench, and a guy who was in line to see his role increase next season with the departure of Bingham Jr., abruptly entered the transfer portal in mid-April before eventually committing to Texas A&M.
A native of Dallas, Marble will be finishing his college career much closer to home and will have the opportunity to spend more time with his family following the death of his father last July.
If that was Marble's primary reason for transferring, it makes all the sense in the world given what he and his family have had to endure over the last 10 months, but it does leave Michigan State in a very precarious spot with a lack of depth in the front court. For now, the Spartans only have an undersized Hauser, seldom-used Mady Sissoko and incoming freshman Jaxon Kohler as low post options.
Marble's departure was the first big blow to Michigan State's 2022-23 roster, but it wasn't the last. Freshman guard Max Christie initially entered the NBA Draft process while maintaining his college eligibility, but Christie has since decided to hire an agent and remain in the 2022 draft.
With Brown, Bingham Jr., Marble and Christie all out the door, the Spartans have lost four players that averaged at least 14.4 minutes per game, including their three leading scorers, their leading rebounder and their two leading shot-blockers.
This comes in addition to the transfer of walk-on Peter Nwoke, and the departure of long-time assistant coach Dwayne Stephens, who left East Lansing to become the new head coach at Western Michigan. It's been six weeks since Stephens left the program, and head coach Tom Izzo has yet to hire his replacement.
That's been an underlying theme this offseason. Minutes after news broke that Christie would remain in the 2022 NBA Draft, 247Sports' Spartan Tailgate reported that the freshman's departure had been expected by Izzo and his staff for some time.
If Christie's departure has been expected for "several weeks", it makes it all the more mind-boggling that Michigan State has not been more active, or successful, in the transfer market.
Izzo and the Spartans have missed on both of the two transfer targets that they've been linked to this offseason. They first missed out on West Virginia transfer Jalen Bridges, whom Izzo and his staff made an in-home visit with before he ultimately chose to transfer to Baylor. By all accounts, he was a top target for MSU.
Michigan State then hosted local product Micah Parrish, who spent two seasons at Oakland University. Parrish visited East Lansing, and while its uncertain if Izzo ever extended an offer his way, he ultimately decided to take his talents out West to San Diego State.
After striking out on both Bridges and Parrish, Michigan State is facing a severe lack of depth on the wing to go along with its lack of depth in the front court.
The Spartans are currently at 10 scholarship players with the late addition of IMG Academy big Carson Cooper to its 2022 recruiting class, but Cooper is expected to take a redshirt year next season. That doesn't help Michigan State's depth issues down low next season.
Two months into the offseason, many top portal players have already found new homes. Maybe they're keeping things close to the vest, but Michigan State has not been linked over even been rumored to be in the running for any center or wing prospects since Parrish chose the Aztecs.
Again, that's a mind-boggling development considering the reports that Izzo and his staff expected Christie to remain in the draft, and given the fact that Marble over two weeks ago.
Maybe this comes back to Izzo's attitude towards the transfer portal. The head coach has used it sparingly in the past, but it's no secret that Izzo is not a fan of the recent changes to the sport which have made it easier for players to seek new homes.
One would think that a high-profile program like Michigan State, which has made a nation-leading 24 consecutive NCAA Tournaments and routinely ranks among the Top 25 programs in America would be an attractive destination for portal targets. Also, while Izzo is widely and accurately considered an "old school" coach in his demeanor, he's still a Hall-of-Famer and one of the most recognizable faces in all of college basketball.
Yet, none of those things have led to Michigan State landing a needed player from the portal yet.
As of now, Michigan State is currently only using ten of its 13 available scholarships. It won't be too surprising if one of those scholarships is awarded to Davis Smith, who briefly entered the transfer portal before deciding to stay with the program. But that still leaves two open scholarships for the program. Adding a wing and a center would, for all the obvious reasons mentioned above, be an ideal result.
The Spartans have a lot of talent at guard with A.J. Hoggard, Tyson Walker, Jaden Akins and incoming freshman Tre Holloman, and it will be interesting to see how Izzo and his staff utilize those guys next season. But Michigan State is going to have its hands full defending the post against the best of the Big Ten's big men.
Sissoko plays hard and is very athletic, but his basketball abilities are still mostly raw. He'll need to take a significant step forward to be able to go toe-to-toe with the league's best down low. Alternatively, Kohler is one of the most exciting low post prospects that Michigan State has landed in some time, but he's been more of an offensive player than a rim protector in high school.
Maybe Izzo and his staff have a plan in place that none of us are aware of right now, but more likely, things have not transpired the way that the Spartans have hoped they would these past couple months.
Between the losses of Marble and Christie, the departures of Brown, Bingham Jr. and Stephens and striking out on both Bridges and Parrish in the transfer portal, it's hard to label this offseason as anything short of a disaster for Michigan State thus far.