MSU mailbag: Talking Tum Tum, turnovers, evil deeds

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
Lourawls Nairn is averaging 19.3 minutes per game off the bench behind starter Cassius Winston.

After taking a break last week, we’re jumping back into the Michigan State mailbag.

The interest in the basketball team’s push through the second half of the Big Ten season has hardly waned as we tackle turnovers and rotation questions in both the backcourt and frontcourt.

I dive a bit into the coverage of the recent ESPN report and then close with some football recruiting with signing day coming up on Wednesday and Michigan State putting its finishing touches on the 2018 class.

Question: Why, in your opinion, do turnovers continue to be an issue for this team? — @WaiteMarc

Answer: This was just the second part of Marc’s question, and we’ll get to the first later as he was not the only person to bring up the subject. But as for the turnovers — this might be one of the more perplexing issues with the Spartans. After all, beyond telling a guy to quit turning the ball over, there’s not exactly a drill you work on to improve. For instance, if you’re shooting poorly at the free-throw line, you shoot more free throws. When it comes to turnovers, that’s a bit tougher. The simple answer is for guys to be smart with the ball. There have been times they shoot for the home run and it has come back to bite them. Other times it’s the propensity for the bigs to get called for an offensive foul on a screen. Whatever it is, the numbers need to get better — MSU is averaging 14.3 turnovers a game — or the Spartans will find themselves handing away a game, not just the ball.

■ Q. Why didn’t Gavin Schilling play much (Wednesday) night? — @barrelagedpat

■ A. This was the other part of Marc’s question, though he added in "What do Schilling and Ben Carter have to do to get in the rotation?" Well, Schilling is in the rotation and last night’s six minutes were the fewest he’s had since Rutgers on Jan. 10. More often than not, Schilling has seen double-digit minutes. Here’s the thing — nothing gets fans riled up as much as Nick Ward’s minutes, and that usually means folks don’t think he plays enough. Ward’s time directly effects Schilling’s, but there’s also the emergence of Xavier Tillman. You’re seeing his role increase, something that will be important considering Schilling won’t be around next season. So, expect those two to continue to take the minutes Ward doesn’t use.

As for Carter, it’s clear he will only have spot duty the rest of the way. The ankle injury slowed him down but he’s just not as effective following his multiple knee issues. He still has value and can be counted on if any of the other bigs are struggling or are in foul trouble, but don’t expect to see him as a regular rotation guy at this point.

More: Wojo: Tom Izzo’s silence is unsettling, but Spartans play on

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■ Q. If this team goes as Cassius goes, why is Izzo so insistent that Tum get nearly 20 minutes? Statistically, we are a minus team in B1G play with him on the floor. — @RandyCheadle

■ A. I might have been wrong on Ward’s minutes. It might be that everyone jumps on Lourawls Nairn anytime he steps on the court that gets people fired up more than anything. I’ve stated here many times that I don’t believe Nairn should be playing any more than about 10-12 minutes a game and in the Penn State game it’s no coincidence that Michigan State’s offense took off when Winston came back in. But there was a reason Wednesday night. Tom Izzo said let’s try bringing Winston off the bench in the second half to take some pressure off him and it worked. Other times it has been because Winston simply was playing poorly or in foul trouble.

The bottom line is, no one believes MSU can win without Winston, but that doesn’t mean you lose with Nairn on the floor. He’s clearly a better defender and Winston can’t play 40 minutes. Plus, the times they’ve used both at the same time have freed up Winston offensively. So, is 20 minutes a game too much? I believe it is. But that doesn’t mean you don’t need Nairn.

More: Engler to meet with MSU athletics in ‘coming days’

■ Q. Do you have any regrets about failing to disclose/report any of Izzo or Dantonio's evil deeds over the years? Do you think your silence/turning a blind eye helped to enable Nassar's abuse? — @ClayofLakeview

■ A. Evil deeds? There’s one name in your question that absolutely needs the word evil next to it, I’m not so sure it’s either Izzo or Dantonio. But to your question, about regret, that’s a tougher one. I wish I would have known about Nassar and could have brought it to light but I simply did not. Most of my work is with football and basketball, and frankly, he didn’t deal with those teams. I’ve also been on the beat since the fall of 2010, so some of the issues brought up in the ESPN report predated my time covering MSU. As for the other incidents in the report, at least one I did not know about while the others were reported on, including the issue with Keith Mumphery and the football players dismissed last summer.

Again, do I wish I knew about every incident? Yes. To say I stayed silent or turned a blind eye is absurd and simply ignores the work that has been done.

More: Ex-MSU guard Travis Walton disputes ESPN report

More: Trieu: Paw Paw’s rising Barnhart gets MSU offer

■ Q. IDK if you can answer but I'll try: Are you aware of any facts that came out in the last 6 days supporting the Allswede/ESPN allegation that Walton & 2 unnamed players were involved in a violent sex assault? I haven't seen anything but maybe you've seen behind the scenes stuff. — @MSUDersh

■ A. I am aware of no facts pertaining to that accusation. It has nothing to do with not seeking the facts or continuing to dig, but outside of rumors there has been nothing concrete.

■ Q. Tommy Bush... anything? — @RealKyleHoward

■ A. I’ve never really thought Bush was coming to Michigan State, even though the Spartans have continued to push hard. Georgia and Ole Miss are near the top of the list while Texas and Baylor are still involved, as well. And on Wednesday, Bush admitted to DawgNation, which covers Georgia, that the issues surrounding Michigan State are weighing on him. “We do take the Michigan State stuff into our decision and it makes it hard,” Bush said. “Especially this close. That’s why I have to tune everything out and focus.”

At this point, three-star receiver Jalen Nailor of Las Vegas Bishop Gorman seems the more likely player to sign next Wednesday. The Spartans are also trying to land a defensive tackle. Three-star Tennessee Pututau of Salt Lake City East is a possibility but the Spartans are also pushing for three-star Dashaun Mallory of Bolingbrook, Ill.