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Community Advocacy Organization

No. 20 Michigan State losing to an unranked Northwestern is not any indication of the season to come

Updated: Dec 6, 2022

Michigan State (5-4) has started this season with a brutal, road-heavy schedule. With a battle against No. 18 Alabama and the invitational in Portland, Oregon, there has been no rest for the weary. Each time they try to get their wobbly legs underneath them, there is a “next game” around the corner.

It is early. They have time. As Tom Izzo iterated in the press conference following their tough 70-63 loss to a defensively-solid Northwestern team, they have not had the time needed for player development. It has been practice, walk-thru, practice walk-thru preparing for their opponents. Most collegiate teams, even in the best of programs, are unable to ‘go out and ball’ (my words for it) without stringing together intentional, skill-building practices.

The Spartans are no exception.

They have also suffered from unforeseen issues, such as injuries. There is really not much a team can do but play through it.

One of their key players, sophomore combo guard, Jaden Akins, has been dealing with a reoccurring injury to his surgically repaired left foot. Izzo only planned to play him 16-18 minutes but because of early foul trouble, had to use him for 22 minutes. Without much preparation and proper conditioning, you could tell he was winded.

Injuries also naturally decrease player’s aggression and assertiveness in gameplay which can be costly. As a former collegiate basketball player, I understand that many times, mentally we are compensating, even if our heart is in the game.

It will take some time for this team to fully heal up and be at their full capacity.

But, they have a lot of time since conference play just started last night (Dec 4 2022). The Michigan State team we saw last night will not be the team we will see in January or February. Certainly, not who we will see out in March.

Historically, Tom Izzo-led Spartan teams are known to be particularly tenacious in the tournament. Although they are rarely deemed an unbeatable powerhouse during regular season, Izzo’s teams know how to turn it on and turn it up when it matters most.

He has led eight of his teams to a Final Four, fifth-most in the history of the NCAA tournament. His win average of .703 in the tournament has also earned him a seat as one of the "greats" in coaching history.

There is still much building going on for them to find out who they want to be and who they are going to be.

Most times, there is a plan the coach has in mind upon recruiting certain guys. Then, there is the revised plan going into preseason. I'm conclusion though, there is the reality carried out based on personnel and ability available from gametime to gametime. There is always a need for reevaluation and tweaking. With so much motion and uncertainty with depth, it seems that this MSU team and its coaches are still trying to figure that all out.

And, time is on their side.

Major success after surprising upsets is nothing new to the Spartans though. Blasting from the past, the State Spartans (32-7) led by Izzo took the 1999-2000 National Championship title in the Big Dance after being upset by an unranked team on December 30,1999 during the regular season. Michigan State suffered a loss dealt by an unranked Wright State who ended up finishing their season with a losing record of 11-17.

December 30, 1999 at Wright State after they upset No. 6 Spartans

Just about 3 months later, April 3, 2000 Michigan State wins Championship defeating No. 5-seeded Florida

Characteristic of college basketball, March is madness and preseason and regular season outings are not the best indicator of what is to come.

Unlike football, basketball teams can drop some games miserably in regular season play and still "win it all" come time for the championship. It is actually very unusual for a squad to have a perfect record. Since 1955, only 7 teams have achieved that feat, UCLA repeating the trend 4 times in the matter of a decade. Last time we saw it happen though was 1975-76 which many basketball gurus would argue is an extinct style of play nowadays.

Now, as for The Big Green, it would be in their best interest to snap this 2-game losing streak ASAP. If for nothing else, it will help the confidence and morale prior to some of their meetings with their other, more dominant Big Ten opponents, in the new year.

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