1. MSU should be kicking itself for how it lost to Kansas
NEW YORK – Michigan State should be angry with its performance in Tuesday night’s 87-74 loss to Kansas in the Champions Classic, as the ingredients are in place for a better show and result.
There have been years when MSU has been surpassed or outclassed at this event. This was not one of them. The Spartan squad is not as experienced as the Jayhawks. That made a difference. MSU’s freshmen had some freshman-like struggles. But MSU largely lost this game because it turned the ball more than 16 times, leading to 16 Kansas points, and missed 7 of its 16 free throw attempts, including multiple front-ends of bonus opportunities.
The Spartans’ two point guards, Tyson Walker and AJ Hoggard, each had three turnovers, with just seven assists in total. That relationship won’t work. They must take better care of the Spartans than they did.
It was a tough first game for Walker, the transfer from Northeastern, who helped MSU settle early but then ran into dirty trouble and spent most of the first half. He was willing to explain himself emphatically to Tom Izzo. Izzo doesn’t mind the give and take with his players. I don’t know if he bought what Walker sold. It will be interesting to see that relationship.
Hoggard had some great moments, especially in the transition, finishing with a team-high 17 points on 8-of-13 shooting. MSU will do just fine as a point guard – so much better than a year ago – as long as they get revenue under control. It killed them on both sides of the court on Tuesday.
2. Freshman Thoughts – The Champions Classic Edition
This was not the debut Max Christie dreamed of. He didn’t shoot very well, finishing 3-for-10 (2-for-4 of 3), with nine points in a team-high 31 minutes. But you could see it. He will be a player this year. When he got it going in the first half, that changed the game. But he also looked like a man who realizes that this is a new level, where turnovers and misses can change momentum in ways you can’t get back. I’m looking forward to his next few matches and how quickly it comes together for him. One major reason I think MSU has an opportunity to challenge teams of Kansas’ caliber as the season progresses is Christie. Nothing that happened Tuesday night makes me think otherwise.
Jaden Akins had it harder. He came up short several times, such as a freshman playing his first game against Kansas at Madison Square Garden. One of his misses led to a fast-break dunk the other way. The same was true when he didn’t get a pass from AJ Hoggard. You could see the relief on Akins’ face when a free throw finally bounced in him late in the first half, his first point of his career. I like that Izzo let him play through it for a while. Some of it had to do with dirty issues elsewhere. But Akins got 10 minutes before halftime. This game can set the tone early in a season, but otherwise the result isn’t that important. The experience is. Akins got wet feet on a big stage.
MORE: Couch: It’s a lot to ask of Max Christie, but if MSU wants to get to Kansas level, he can’t be a freshman
3. Marcus Bingham actually looks like the centerpiece – that’s no small development
I thought Julius Marble and Mady Sissoko played well on Tuesday night. Marble, in particular, looked comfortable on both sides. MSU, it seems, has three guys it can count on in the middle for minutes. Not bad considering all three of them were part of last year’s muddle in the middle. But Marcus Bingham has separated himself – and that’s an important development.
I was hesitant to fully believe what I saw of Bingham in the exhibition games. Tuesday was his moment of truth, against Kansas great man David McCormack – a skilled and bruised six-foot center, an imperfect player, but no different from other great players MSU will face this season. Bingham loved more than his man. He defeated McCormick and played most of his minutes against him. When the big man from Kansas was in the game, except for a few minutes, Bingham was too.
Bingham, who took his first offense with 17:41 left in the first half, did a great defensive job without polluting the rest of the half and the game. He harassed McCormack all night, holding him to 3-for-10 shooting (he later scored over Marble) and two rebounds, blocking one of his shots. The bonus for MSU was on the other side, where Bingham looked comfortable in the post with his jump hook and scored once at the baseline. He finished with 10 points, seven rebounds and two blocks in 18 minutes – winning a matchup with a legitimate big man. MSU lost this game for many reasons. Bingham wasn’t one of them, although it would have helped if a couple of his 3-point attempts had rattled.
Contact Graham Couch at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Graham_Couch.
This article originally appeared in Lansing State Journal: MSU basketball falls to Kansas in the Champions Classic: 3 quick takes