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Big Ten Basketball Is Unwatchable: A Play In Three Acts

An offhand comment ignites a mid-hoops season Spartan Festivus

Syndication: Lansing State Journal
Hey look, the guy who scored 33 a game as a senior can legally touch the ball!
Nick King/Lansing State Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

Boss said I had to refine what were previously private kvetchings into an article, so. Perhaps you, personally, didn’t ask for this, but someone did.

scene: Off Tackle Empire Slack basketball channel, late evening, Tuesday, February 7th. Enter MNWILDCAT and GREEN AKERS. Throughout, Michigan State uses a splendid 10-0 burst to begin the contest and then fiddles and diddles about, not surrendering the lead but declining to put Maryland away as the Terps shoot 1/10 from deep and Donta Scott goes scoreless in the first half.

MNWildcat: who is this big white stiff of a center sparty has? where the hell did he come from?

Green Akers: Jaxon Kohler, freshman, so…high school, if you mean before this

If the superfluous X in his name didn’t tell you, he is from Utah IIRC

AND Izzo could’ve taken Matt Nicholson and still had space for him, since we’re only using 10 fucking scholarships

MNWildcat: man a year ago if you’d have told me a sparty would be pining for matt nicholson, i’d have laughed you outta the goddamn room

Green Akers: Right, would’ve required Izzo to get an in-state evaluation correct in the last decade tho

To review Clarkston prospects of the last few years:

Foster Loyer: yes, definitely, gotta take his commitment as a sophomore, Dane Fife sees a surefire multi-year starter

Matt Nicholson: pass

Fletcher Loyer: meh, let’s take another point instead

Fife ever steps foot back in Breslin again, Izzo ought to have the bench mob give him a swirly. Oh btw, also pass on Duane Washington to take Foster.

But to be clear, I’m less pining for Nicholson specifically than for another warm body who isn’t a raw as sushi freshman.

And Izzo’s rationale for not bringing another guy in - that he’d rather have enough minutes for all his guys and keep them all around - is complete bullshit since I’d bet anything he expected to have some combination of Julius Marble, Gabe Brown, and Marcus Bingham on this team.

Then they all left, Izzo made a halfhearted attempt at exactly two transfer options, shrugged when he missed both and is rolling with ten, of whom three are freshmen not ready for much action, two have missed extended periods with injuries (which happen in basketball!), and another is Pierre Brooks, who is the ceremonial Guy Who Shall Remain Endoghoused All Season For Unclear Reasons, to the extent when I mentally assess the team I often literally forget Brooks is on it.

He was Mr. Basketball in Michigan 2 years ago btw, scored like 33 ppg for a state title winner. Can’t get on the floor, need Hoggard, Walker, and Akins to go for 35 minutes a night, haha what’s the worst that could happen, are they going to be too exhausted to hit any shots against oh just for example Rutgers in a tight game.

I have not enjoyed this season can you tell! And I didn’t even have expectations! All I wanted was to see the core of a team that could add next season’s awesome freshman class and win some stuff and it’s just. Not there, man

[Enter STEWMONKEY13, Iowegian]

stewmonkey13: Wait, shit, missing both Bingham and Marble. Also, Sparty is usually good to run a bit with teams if they so choose. But every MSU game I’ve seen this season is just fuckin ugly. Scored more games in the 50s than the 80s.

Green Akers: They have an exaggerated version of a problem they’ve had for a while now, which is bigs who aren’t complete players. Sissoko took a huge step forward from his first two years but is still basically useless on offense - like, there are nights where he can’t catch the ball - and he also doesn’t have the understanding of rebounding most primary MSU bigs do, so the advantage MSU usually tries to build on the glass isn’t there. Jaxon Kohler’s got a very nice offensive game for a freshman, but makes enough mistakes on defense that Izzo keeps his minutes down. So many problems come from being at a disadvantage to every decent big in the conference; they yield tons of offensive rebounds, which makes them play more defense and commit more fouls, and also deactivates their fast break and limits them to the halfcourt, where, again, if Sissoko’s out there, it’s basically 4 on 5.

stewmonkey13: 296 in tempo

Green Akers: If Marble’s still around, they’d have a post scorer who isn’t a complete liability on defense. If Bingham’s around, they have a defensive center who at least makes the other team guard him. If Brown is still around, the wings at least don’t have to play damn near every minute. If they find another guy who can do any of that stuff in the portal even as a one-year grad transfer, fewer issues. But yeah, I’ve seen commentary from my fellows, mostly after wins but even after a couple of the close losses that “this team is just fun to watch” and I have no idea what those people are talking about.

Maryland takes the lead around the U12 media timeout after MSU scores two points in a roughly 5-minute span of game time with five fouls called, three turnovers, and four missed three-point attempts. Tom Izzo does not call a timeout as the score flips from a 12-point lead to a two-point deficit.

stewmonkey13: I don’t think those people care for basketball

Or think that the 80s pistons and 90s knicks were the pinnacle of basketball

Enter Kind of..., Wisconsonian, aside to STEWMONKEY13

Kind of...: Going to be a pedant, but there’s a big difference between 80s Pistons and 90s Knicks. Former might have been dirty, but were really fucking good, too. 90s Knicks can eat shit.

stewmonkey13: Prototype vs perfection of a style

Green Akers: Right right, so I’ll say what I do which is Iowa will never win anything if you don’t play defense but we’ve been over that ground. In this case, appreciation for this team probably comes from Joey Hauser’s redemption arc (consider how far he’s come for me to sincerely hope he comes back for his COVID year), and that AJ Hoggard has some will to win-type stuff that comes out occasionally.

stewmonkey13: Well, I’m glad you’re a fan of Iowa football and late stage Dantonio. Also my argument is more that this style is not entertaining for those that are not fans of either team. I’d much rather be entertained, and this ain’t that

Green Akers: Someone posted a list of the most-watched college hoops games and like 4 of the 10 are MSU and I’m like what the FUCK is the matter with you people. As per usual, I applaud your absurdist reductivism tho

Anyway, 9:00 tipoff when I’m going to the office tomorrow means I don’t have to watch the end of this bullshit. I stand firm on my assessment of...not even sure when but at least two years ago. Izzo’s never winning another natty, which to some extent means we’re playing out the string here, and I no longer see or hear from many in my own fanbase who shrieked and spluttered when I first ventured that opinion. And it’s entirely his own stubbornness that’s to blame.

Michigan State retakes the lead and forces a Maryland timeout to serve as the U8. The teams score a cumulative nine points before the next media timeout, prompted by a killer three by Joey Hauser, my beloved son whom I have never doubted. MSU’s lead ebbs and flows until consecutive blown defensive possessions give Maryland two easy backdoor baskets; Maryland misses free throws late and MSU escapes with a five-point win.

Green Akers: Huzzah, an even-narrower-than-it-looks home win against a thoroughly mediocre Year One opponent with four major conference-caliber players on their roster. Put that gold star right at the top of the tourney resume, for sure, dOn’T lOoK nOw BuT IzZo’S wArMiNg Up FoR mArCh. Sure, right up until we lose to sub-.500 overall, 3-9 in league Ohio State on Sunday because this team sucks on the road.