Michigan State Basketball: Best to believe in Tom Izzo

As usual, Tom Izzo has made some questionable moves for Michigan State basketball in the early conference season, but as seen in the past, it’s best to trust him.

Like most fan bases around the country, Michigan State’s has been up-and-down throughout most of the season. Sweeping Minnesota was nice, but those wins don’t mean anything with losses to Penn State and Ohio State. Beating a solid Oakland team was good, but that lost its relevance when the Spartans fell to Northeastern in the previous game.

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That’s how the first couple months have played out and will likely be how the final couple months go for the Spartans. With Tom Izzo at the head of the program, that’s just something fans have to deal with, otherwise, everyone would’ve been glad to see him go to the NBA only a few years ago.

Izzo’s method of coaching came to light once again in the loss at Ohio State over the weekend. Nick Ward gave up an early offensive rebound and was immediately pulled for his mistake and throughout the game, he had some concentration issues, giving up multiple easy baskets on the defensive end. So in Izzo fashion, Ward was sent to the bench often and didn’t even get the start after halftime, despite having only one foul.

This is nothing new for Izzo’s teams. If you make mental mistakes, you don’t get to make up for them later in the game. Eron Harris knows that all too well and only played 13 minutes in the Ohio State loss. Alvin Ellis III has gutted through his four years and is only finally seeing consistent playing time in his senior season.

But for every Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix that pans out, there is a Korie Lucious and Marvin Clark Jr. Sure, some had off-court issues, but a lot of guys have decided to transfer away from Michigan State because they didn’t want to take part in Izzo’s process. Even Deyonta Davis could be chalked up to one of the transfers as he decided to head to the NBA after a tumultuous relationship with Izzo in only one season.

And Sunday against Ohio State can be labeled as one of those ‘learning lesson’ losses for the Spartans. Izzo could’ve played Ward and Harris a bit more and it likely would’ve given the team a better chance to win, but his hope is that giving them a lesson now, is much better for future prospects. Whether the fans agree with that, remains to be seen.

From the naked eye as well as a statistical view, the Spartans were a different team with Goins in the game instead of Ward. According to stats kept by StatBroadcast, Ward finished with a plus-11 mark in only 18 minutes, while Goins was minus-15 in 21 minutes. Ward had his defensive lapses, but he also allowed the offense to play an in-and-out game that Goins simply can’t do.

There’s also Ward’s ability to draw fouls (which he did in the second half) and he’s one of the best in the nation at doing so (9.8 per 40 minutes). And as expected for Goins, his offensive rating was zero against the Buckeyes because he rarely touched the ball.

As for Harris, the reason is a little unclear why he’s played just 30 minutes in the last two games (13 against Ohio State). Harris is one of the few players on the team that can create offense for himself, something the team lacked down the stretch with Matt McQuaid in the game.

McQuaid’s ineffectiveness can be seen in his shooting numbers, as he’s just 10-of-30 from two-point range on the season, which is a confusing number for someone that is supposed to be a shooter. But for some reason, Izzo has decided that McQuaid should close the game instead of Harris. I don’t have the stats to back this up, but I don’t think McQuaid is that much better of a defender than Harris for him to earn those minutes.

Either way, this is what the Spartans are left with; Izzo tinkering with the lineup in January and December, trying to get his guys to give 100 percent in every game. The loss against Ohio State can in part be blamed to Izzo and he’s fine with that. The only ask from the fans is that he takes Michigan State to the Final Four and not force Ward out the door too soon.

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