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Get To Know A Marquette Men’s Basketball NCAA Tournament Opponent: Michigan State

It’s been nine years since the Golden Eagles renewed what is a sneaky long time rivalry.

Rutgers v Michigan State Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Name: Michigan State University

Location: East Lansing, Michigan

I’m not so good at the Michigan geography, where’s East Lansing? It’s east of Lansing.

Ha ha, very funny. No, really, it is!

Okay, fine, smart guy. Where is that in relation to literally anything else? You know how the lower peninsula of Michigan looks like a mitten? Pretend it’s a mitten where you’re looking at your palm. If you poke your finger into the middle of your palm, that’s where East Lansing is. It’s about halfway between Detroit on the east and Grand Rapids in the west.

Founded: Smart agriculture guys in the 1850s said “hey, we need a college to teach this kind of stuff” and the Agricultural College of the State of Michigan was established in 1855 and they started classes in May of 1857. The traditional school calendar apparently came along later.

Transformation: Michigan State is currently on their sixth name. After Agricultural College of the State of Michigan, they changed to State Agricultural College in 1861, partially because the state’s Department of Agriculture took over control of the school, then they realized branding was important 45ish years later and changed to Michigan Agricultural College in 1909. As the classes offered shifted and changed over the years, the name changed as well in 1925: Michigan State College of Agriculture and Applied Science. That lasted to 1955 when the school achieved University status and just changed the one word in their title. I’m guessing someone realized that they were spending a lot of money on ink on the letterhead and thus just threw everything else but Michigan State University out in 1964.

Enrollment: MSU sorts their students into three categories. As of Fall 2022, Michigan State has 39,201 undergraduates, 7,767 Graduate-Research students, and 3,055 Graduate-Practice students.

Cool Campus Traditions? Sometimes I have to do a lot of work to try to find some things to highlight. And then sometimes Delta Airlines and BuzzFeed just slap together a listicle in 2016 and I just link you to it and we keep it moving. My favorite one is the MSU band protecting the Spartan statue.

I lied. Here’s 10 more campus traditions from something called College Magazine, which may be the most generically named website in the history of the internet.

Nickname: Spartans

Why “Spartans”? Other than the legendary warriors of the Greek city-state Sparta? Because the Lansing State Journal thought it was stupid to call them “The Michigan Staters” after the school became Michigan State College.

From, Michigan State’s official athletics website, because I can not possibly do this any better justice than they already did:

In 1926, Michigan State’s first southern baseball training tour provided the setting for the birth of the “Spartans” nickname.

It all came about when a Lansing sportswriter imposed the silent treatment on a contest-winning nickname and substituted his own choice, the name that has lasted through the years.

In 1925, Michigan State College replaced the name Michigan Agricultural College. The college sponsored a contest to select a nickname to replace “Aggies” and picked “The Michigan Staters.”

George S. Alderton, then sports editor of the Lansing State Journal, decided the name was too cumbersome for newspaper writing and vowed to find a better one. Alderton contacted Jim Hasselman of Information Services to see if entries still remained from the contest. When informed that they still existed, Alderton ran across the entry name of “Spartans” and then decided that was the choice. Unfortunately, Alderton forgot to write down who submitted that particular entry, so that part of the story remains a mystery.

Rewriting game accounts supplied by Perry Fremont, a catcher on the squad, Alderton first used the name sparingly and then ventured into the headlines with it. (Incidentally, after two days of spelling the name incorrectly with an “o”, Mr. Alderton changed it to Spartan on a tip from a close friend.) Dale Stafford, a sports writer for the Lansing Capitol News, a rival of the State Journal, picked up the name for his paper after a couple of days. Alderton called Stafford and suggested that he might want to join the Spartan parade and he did.

No one complained about it, other publications started picking up on it, eventually the student newspaper did as well, and then the school locked it in as the official nickname. We hear a lot of stories of “the student newspaper held a voting contest” stories for these things, we don’t get a lot of “the local newspaper thought the student vote result was stupid” stories.

Notable Alumni: author Timothy Zahn, best known for his Star Wars novels featuring Grand Admiral Thrawn; Liberty Hyde Bailey, the Father of Modern Horticulture; former NFL player and writer Peter Gent, best known for North Dallas Forty; Jim Delligatti, creator of the Big Mac; film director Michael Cimino, best known for The Deer Hunter; Lloyd Groff Copeman, inventor of the first electric stove and also the flexible ice cube tray; professional wrestler George “The Animal” Steele; film director Walter Hill, best known for 48 Hrs.; Julie Aigner-Clark, founder of Baby Einstein; long time Chicago Blackhawks play-by-play man Pat Foley; Tom Gores, owner of the Detroit Pistons; TV journalist Chris Hansen, best known for his work on NBC’s To Catch A Predator series; writer Jan Harold Brunvand, who modernized & popularized the term “urban legend;” actor Robert Urich, best known for Vega$ and Spencer: For Hire; film editor Bob Murawski, who won an Academy Award for his work on The Hurt Locker; criminologist Robert Ressler, who coined the term “serial killer” during his time with the FBI’s Behavorial Science Unit; comic book writer Geoff Johns; and finally, Dan Gilbert, the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

This Season: 20-12, 11-8 in the Big Ten Ranking: #28

T-Rank Ranking: #26

Stats Leaders

Points: Tyson Walker, 14.5 ppg
Rebounds: Joey Hauser, 7.0 rpg
Assists: A.J. Hoggard, 6.0 apg

Shooters? Oh yeah, Michigan State has shooters coming out of their ears. They connect on 39.4% of their long range attempts this season, and that number was way up at 41.5% during Big Ten play. Joey Hauser is their most likely shooter and their best shooter, too. The Stevens Point native attempts nearly five three-pointers a game and hits nearly 47% of them, both of which are team highs. Jaden Akins lets it fly just short of four times a game, while Tyson Walker is just over four attempts a night. Both men hit more than 41% of their three-point attempts, so if they catch fire, Marquette’s in a lot of trouble. Malik Hall doesn’t shoot it that much at just two attempts per game this season, but he’s hitting 37% on the year and 39% for his career at MSU.

Here’s the catch: Michigan State doesn’t want to shoot threes. They’re #301 in the country per in attempt rate, which means they’re bottom 70 in the country when it comes to what percentage of shots come from behind the arc. That’s wild since the Spartans shoot under 48% on two-point shots this season, but whatever turns your grass green, I guess.

Bigs? Freshman Carson Cooper is the biggest dude on the roster at 6’11” and 230 pounds, but he’s played double digit minutes in just six games all season, and his 13 minutes against USC on Friday was the first time he broke 10 minutes since January 16th..... when MSU played Purdue and Zach Edey.

So we don’t need to worry about him too much in terms of size in the middle, but the next two biggest guys on the roster start and play at least 21 minutes a night on average. Mady Sissoko weighs in at 6’9” and 235 pounds, so I’d categorize him as MSU’s starting center just because I don’t see Joey Hauser at 6’9” and 220 pounds as a center if nothing else. Sissoko is a traditional college big from the statistical perspective: 5.0 points and 6.1 rebounds per game on just over 21 minutes a night, nary a single long range attempt in sight. KenPom has him as a top 250 rebounder on both ends of the court in terms of rate, and Sissoko shoots 60% from the field..... and 62% from the free throw line. He’s also prone to turnovers, posting a 25% rate this season, which is worst on the team. Sissoko’s minutes don’t let him look like a prodigious shot blocker, but he is just outside KenPom’s top 200 in rate, so he can swat it if you don’t come correct against him.

Hauser is a different story, as you can tell from all the three-point shooting as discussed above. He profiles out as a protoypical stretch four, posting the 13th best three-point shooting percentage in the country and leading the Spartans in rebounds per game, too. As you’d expect with the outside work, he’s mostly getting to 7.0 caroms a game on the defensive glass, but he’s great on that end of the floor. His shots are almost nearly split inside and outside the arc this season, and given that his three-point shooting works out to an effective field goal percentage of nearly 70%, Marquette is going to be much better off forcing him away from that and into shooting twos where he’s “only” hitting 51%.

If Michigan State needs another option to try and handle Oso Ighodaro and Olivier-Maxence Prosper’s athleticism at the 4 and the 5, they’re going to turn to Jaxon Kohler, a 6’9”, 240 pound freshman from Utah. It seems that he’s fallen out of favor with the MSU coaching staff as of late, playing single digit minutes in four of their last five games after averaging 13 per game through January 7th. He’s got nice advanced stats numbers without qualifying for national rankings, but again, it seems he’s more of a “in case of emergency, break glass” option for Michigan State at this point of the year.

Head Coach: Tom Izzo, in his 28th season at Michigan State and as a Division 1 head coach. He has a record of 686-278.

All-Time Series: Michigan State leads, 32-23. The reason for so many contests in the series even though these two teams have only played twice this century is because they played at least once per year every season between 1926 and 1943. After that pesky thing that we remember as World War II, the two sides renewed the rivalry in 1947, and then kept it going every season through 1956. The most recent meeting was in November 2014 when MSU got the 79-68 W at the Orlando Classic. The most recent NCAA tournament meeting was in 2007 when MSU won 61-49 while Jerel McNeal missed the game due to a hand injury. The most recent Marquette win in the series came in February 1956, but that only means that the Spartans have won four straight meetings.

What To Watch For: If you asked random people on the street what their impressions of Michigan State men’s basketball were, I suspect that one of the things that would be a trending topic is defense. Since Marquette is a team that’s been known for their potent offense this season, that generally speaking seems like a problem for the Golden Eagles.

I say this to point out that Michigan State is a #7 seed for very good reasons, and one of those reasons is that this is not a classic Tom Izzo defensive team. Even more to the point, they’re getting a little bit worse as the season grinds along. Run yourself over to’s page for the Spartans and click through the trend charts for Adjusted Defense and effective field goal defense. There’s a clear downward trend to both of them. Since February 13th, the day after they clonked Ohio State in the head in Columbus, Michigan State is playing like the #171 defense in the country.

Of particular note there? Michigan State doesn’t force turnovers. That’s a whole season thing for them, by the way. #344 in the country per KenPom for the whole season, just 14.8% of possessions, and that rate holds up in the Torvik filtering since February 13th. They’re not forcing turnovers, just like they haven’t all season, but now they’re also allowing a metric ton of shots to go in. Teams have an eFG% of nearly 56% in this seven game stretch, and that includes shooting nearly 41% from long range against them.

Do you know if Marquette likes to shoot three-pointers? I think they like to shoot three-pointers.

I do know that Marquette likes to get those three-pointers as wide open as possible, and they get them off the pass. They’re one of the best teams in the country at getting a bucket anywhere on the court off a pass, #17 in the country per KenPom. You know what Michigan State’s bad at? Allowing assisted baskets, #233. The Spartans also let you shoot a lot of three-pointers, #218 in the country in rate.

If Marquette can get their offense humming, it seems like the shots will be there for them. Michigan State is not a good offensive rebounding team, particularly if the Golden Eagles can play Sissoko off the floor. That wipes out one of Marquette’s biggest flaws as a defense, and by the way? In that same time that Michigan State’s defense has been going through a rough patch? Marquette’s #22 in the country on the defensive end per

It sounds simple and trite, sure, but if Marquette can make this a game in the vein of the way that Shaka Smart wants his team to play: energy, flow, connectiveness, violence? If Marquette Basketball plays Marquette Basketball? Chalk up a Sweet 16 appearance.