With a Top Coach in Tom Izzo, Are the Michigan State the Real Underdogs in Big Ten?

Published 12/24/2023, 1:47 PM EST

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USA Today via Reuters

The Michigan State Spartans have an average 7-5 record but can’t be ignored in the Big Ten. Although, chances are that the Illinois who are ranked 13th in the AP Polls and the Wisconsin who occupy the 24th spot in the rankings can finish second in the Big Ten behind the Purdue Boilermakers. The Michigan State can also present their case and be a tough competitors, obstructing the paths of the top-ranked teams. 

The Illinois can also fade out in crunch situations since they seem to over-reliant on their guard Terrence Shannon Jr. Except for rebounds, Shannon Jr. has been leading the other four departments of points, steals, assists, and blocks. This could make the Fighting Illini pay heavily in crucial matches if the opponents are able to contain Shannon Jr. Not many would have noticed, but the Michigan State were ranked at the fourth spot in the preseason polls. 

Do the Michigan State really have it in them?

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On the other hand, an underdog team that has emerged in the scene is the Michigan State. Though they have lost to the Wisconsin, the Arizona and the Duke Blue Devils, the Tom Izzo-coached team have won their contests against the Baylor Bears and the Butler Bulldogs. And that too with convincing margins.

They have a star coach in Tom Izzo who has also helped them clinch the national championship once in 2000. The Hall Of Famer has led his team to eight Final Fours and also occupied the second place in 2009. His coaching tactics make them a team to reckon with who can turn the tables when the opportunity arises. He is also the most winningest coach in the Big Ten league. 

Their guard Tyson Walker has been compelling this season. He leads the team’s average in two departments of points scored and steals. Walker has an exemplary 19.8 points per match average with 1.7 steals per game. He also dropped a season-high 35 points against the James Madison Dukes and was one of the chief pillars standing up to the Madison Dukes’ brilliance, helping his team take the game to overtime where they unfortunately lost. 

Much depends on AJ Hoggard

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Another athlete to keep an eye on is Hoggard. He has played the role of a second fiddle quite well and propelled his team to wins. He stands next to Walker on the points list with 10.8 points per game.

USA Today via Reuters

Considering the position he has been playing in the team, it is not an uphill task to guess that he leads his team in terms of assists average with 5.1 per contest. Hoggard can be the alpha on days Walker is screened by a lot of defenders and has issues in coming out on top.

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As per USA Today, the Michigan State was the fourth-ranked preseason team in the country and might be under pressure due to the weight of expectations. If they are able to overcome that and give their best then they can definitely pave the way for themselves and be top contenders in the Big Ten.

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Written by:

Ritvan Pande

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Edited by:

Bilal Handoo