BLOOMINGTON, Indiana — Michigan state has contested the 10th-toughest schedule in the nation, according to ESPN, and the majority of these high-profile opponents are led by the nation’s best forwards and centers.
Here’s a snapshot of the top Post players Michigan State faced in 2022-23:
- Drew Timme, Gonzaga 21.3 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 3.4 apg, two-way consensus All-American, Midseason Wooden Award Watchlist
- Oscar Tshiebwe, Kentucky: 17.3 ppg, 13.8 rpg, reigning international of the year, SEC All-Defense, midseason wood price watchlist
- Hunter Dickinson, Michigan: 17.8 ppg, 8.9 rpg, two-time All-Big-Ten-Team runner-up, midseason Wooden Award watchlist
- Zach Edey, Purdue: 21.3 ppg, 13.0 rpg, Midseason Wooden Award watchlist, leader for 2022-23 International of the Year
Add to that list Eric Dixon of Villanova, Noah Clowney of Alabama, Dante N’Faly of Oregon, Nate Laszewski of Notre Dame, Derrick Walker of Nebraska, Steven Crowl of Wisconsin, Dain Dainja of Illinois, and Clifford Omoruyi of Rutgers, and the Michigan State really has its hands full in the post in 12 of its 19 games.
For Tom Izzo, that trend is unlike anything he’s seen in 28 years as Michigan State head coach.
“There aren’t that many great men that we’ve faced in a whole year and we’ve faced them in half a year,” Izzo said. “And different guys, a 7ft 4 guy, Dickinson, then a smaller, strong guy. We faced every possible guy but the number of big guys wasn’t that high until the last couple of years.”
When the Spartans travel to Assembly Hall on Sunday, they will face off against another forward who championed All-American status as a senior. Trayce Jackson-Davis averages 18.6 points, 9.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.9 blocks. In Indiana’s 80-65 win over Illinois on Thursday, Jackson-Davis had 35 points on 15-for-19 shooting with nine rebounds, five assists and three blocks. Izzo said Indiana looks like an elite team in this road win.
A Jackson-Davis fan since recruiting, Izzo has seen a change in the past few games from the Hoosiers, who are fueled by their star forward. Jackson-Davis, a three-time All-Big Ten player, has averaged at least 18 points and eight rebounds over the past three years, but Izzo said he’s playing at a different level because he’s become a “phenomenal passer with both.” “ have developed right and left hand.
“He’s got sick athleticism when it comes to blocking shots, getting rebounds, doing spin moves, finishing and running around the court,” Izzo said. “Elite for a man his size and I think he’s gotten bigger and stronger since last year. If I wasn’t playing him I would be happy for him, but I’m playing him.”
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Illinois coach Brad Underwood set Jackson-Davis up against Dain Dainja and Coleman Hawkins one-on-one, a puzzling decision that left the Illini incapacitated for most of the night. It would be surprising if Izzo used this strategy on Sunday, given that most teams have consistently thrown doubles and trebles against Jackson-Davis throughout the season.
Dragging the order on Jackson-Davis to start will be the 6-foot-9 Mady Sissoko, whose role has taken a significant leap as a third-year at Michigan State. Sissoko played about five minutes a game in 55 appearances as a freshman and sophomore, but he has started all 19 competitions this year. Sissoko plays 22.1 minutes per game and averages 5.6 points and 6.9 rebounds on 58.8 percent shooting.
Izzo said Sissoko has exceeded expectations this season and he’s also been encouraged by two freshman forwards coming off the bench. Sissoko will be joined in protecting Jackson-Davis on Sunday by Jaxon Kohler (6ft 9) and Carson Cooper (6ft 11) who have seen more action after Malik Hall (6ft 8) was injured.
Kohler plays 11.9 minutes per game and had his best performance of the season with 12 points and 11 rebounds at Rutgers on Thursday. Cooper added six points and four rebounds in 12 minutes on Jan. 13 in Illinois. Michigan State is also starting 6-foot-9 senior Joey Hauser, who plays on the sidelines but still has the ability to mix it up in color. Hauser averages 13.4 points, 7.7 rebounds and shoots 41.2 percent from 3 on a team-high 85 attempts.
With double teams and a low rotation of players, Izzo knows it will be a group effort to slow down Jackson-Davis, but he’s hoping past experience will help his team prepare.
“I think what’s cool is I think we’re probably going to need all three, and at least we have a little bit of a stronger feeling going in,” Izzo said. “The problem with Trayce is that he’s just so athletic. I mean, we’d have to put Jaden [Akins] grow on him and grow a foot and add 30 or 40 or 50 pounds that’s how athletic he is… I think our boys are more ready than they were. They’ll be more ready next week, two weeks, and they’re growing right now.”
After two crucial victories, Indiana returns to the comfort of Assembly Hall, which should be packed and ready to roar on Sunday. Izzo said playing in Wisconsin and Illinois this year has been a good experience for his team and he will also incorporate crowd noise during pre-season practice.
“Especially after this win [on Thursday]I think this place will rock like no other,” Izzo said. “And that’s the beauty of the Big Ten.”
- HOW TO GET INDIANA VS. MICHIGAN STATE: Indiana Basketball (12-6, 3-4) hosts the Michigan State Spartans (13-6, 5-3) Sunday at 12:00 p.m. ET at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Indiana. Here’s how to watch with game time and TV info, three leading storylines, the latest on scoring, the coaching matchup, series history, and more. CLICK HERE
- INDIANA-ILLINOIS FEATURE STORY: Illinois opted not to double up on Trayce Jackson-Davis Thursday night, and the senior made them pay. He scored 35 points and the Hoosiers pulled off a huge win on the road with an 80-65 win. Jackson-Davis made 15 of his 19 field goal attempts and his 35 was a season-high. CLICK HERE
- UNDERWOOD ‘NO WORRY’ ABOUT JACKSON-DAVIS’ 35: Indiana’s star forward Trayce Jackson-Davis scored 35 points in an 80-65 win, but Illinois coach Brad Underwood was more concerned about the Illinois’ 14 missed free throws, 13 missed layups and more. CLICK HERE
- WHAT WOODSON SAID: Indiana clinched a much-needed win away on Thursday night by beating Illinois 80-65 and ending the Illini’s four-game winning streak. Here’s what Hoosiers coach Mike Woodson said when he met with the media after the game, with full video and transcript. CLICK HERE
- WHAT JACKSON-DAVIS SAID TO GERONIMO: Trayce Jackson-Davis had 35 points and nine rebounds and Jordan Geronimo added 13 and eight as Indiana beat Illinois 80-65 in Champaign Thursday night. Fig. The two forwards met the media after the game and here is the full video and transcript. CLICK HERE