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Michigan State Basketball: How can the Spartans fix itself for rest of 2023-24 season?

Michigan State Basketball has been struggling so far this season. How do they fix themselves and start playing like the preseason top 5 team they are?

Michigan State's Coen Carr dunks against Southern Indiana during the second half on Thursday, Nov.
Michigan State's Coen Carr dunks against Southern Indiana during the second half on Thursday, Nov. / Nick King/Lansing State Journal / USA
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3. More Transition

The Spartans may never score like Arizona, Creighton, Gonzaga, and Alabama but that doesn’t mean they don’t play fast. The Spartans don’t ever play at one of the faster paces in the country and that is fine but what they are good at is getting down the floor quickly after a made basket before the defense has a chance to set up and scoring in transition. The best coach Izzo teams were wonderful at this part of the game, the problem is that the Spartans have gotten away from that this year. They are not playing at a fast pace this year at all and are letting the game dictate how fast they want to play.

Normally Michigan State is the team who is going to dictate the tempo and they are comfortable and win a lot of games playing at a medium pace. In the first half of the Nebraska game Michigan State would race down the floor after the Huskers made a basket and get to the rim without any defensive pressure because they outrun the defense it worked, and Nebraska was not able to stop it. It remains a mystery why the Spartans didn’t do that the entire game especially late in the second half when they had regained the lead. Nebraska dictated the pace of that game and Wisconsin dictated the pace of that game when they played. It was very strange to see. I don’t know if it is a personnel issue or if Izzo doesn’t feel he can win games like that anymore.

He may be partially right, the Spartans are never going to be equipped to get into a track meet with Arizona, Creighton, Alabama, or Gonzaga. Most teams in the country are not going to run with those teams, but what the Spartans should be doing is running after made baskets at the start of each half and end of game scenarios. That is going to help build a lead quickly and will bait the other teams into mistakes and turnovers that will also lead to runouts for Michigan State. 

All of this is easier said than done, Michigan State has to get enough stops for this to matter and they are still going to have to make shots, which right now is a little bit of a chore but going quick and keeping the defense on their heels is usually going to lead to easy baskets especially if the game is in the balance or the game is close. Michigan State has the athletes, especially at the guard position to do this successfully. There are not many teams in the Big Ten who have the personnel to run with Michigan State when they get out and go.

Another thing this can help stop is the slow starts by Michigan State. They were okay in that regard against Nebraska but at the under 15 timeouts in their losses it has not been as pretty. At the 15 minute mark in their losses here were the scores: Wisconsin 11-2, Michigan State 8-6, James Madison 11-4, Michigan State 3-2, and Arizona 10-4. Often the Spartans are already down by multiple possessions after the initial feeling out period. Speeding up the pace especially after a made basket is going to help curb some of this. 

Watch for Michigan State to start getting out in transition more after made baskets and trying to use it to extend leads. The offense is not good right now and the defense has been good enough in some of the games that the Spartans have lost. Don’t over complicate things and get the easy baskets in transition that you know you can get.