It was a relatively busy week at Michigan State as the basketball team prepared to take its shot at Purdue on Saturday and stay in the hunt for the Big Ten championship.
In football, the traditional signing day came and went with the Spartans signing one more player and adding three walk-ons after signing 20 commitments back in December.
In this week’s mailbag, we talk about what a loss might mean to Tom Izzo’s team and the never-ending debate over playing time at the point guard spot.
Football we talk about which recruits could make an impact early in their careers.
Question: Do you see a potential loss vs Purdue as catastrophic ... or an opportunity for growth going into the big dance? — @hogaboom77
Answer: Would it be catastrophic? That might be a bit of an exaggeration considering it would be to a team many believe is Final Four-worthy. Let’s see how it plays out. If the Spartans get rolled and have no answer for Isaac Haas, can’t close out on the shooters, have trouble hanging on to the ball and can’t defend the slashing perimeter players, it could offer legitimate concerns heading into the postseason.
However, I’d hardly be jumping off the bandwagon. This is still the same Michigan State team that played Duke to the wire then blew out North Carolina and Notre Dame before injuries decimated the Irish. It’s natural, I suppose, to pick apart the team you see play every day. They’re doing it with Purdue now after the Boilermakers lost for the first time since Thanksgiving, so that’s how it goes. A loss would sting, no doubt, especially since MSU truly wants to win a regular-season Big Ten title. However, the Spartans have lost three times all season. That’s not too bad.
Q. Why does Tum keep getting court time? He's a minus player. We were -15 during the time that Cassius sat in the second half against Iowa... — @RandyCheadle
A. This might be the biggest gripe fans have with this team, and it’s understandable. Winston sat for nearly nine minutes at Iowa on Tuesday. He went out with Michigan State ahead by three and when he checked back in, MSU was behind by seven. Now, that is NOT all on Tum Tum Nairn. Yes, he is a limited offensive player. That is not going to change. But, also understand Winston isn’t perfect, either. He admitted as much after the game, saying his body langue wasn’t good and he wasn’t playing with “championship effort.”
So, let’s not boil it down to Izzo simply choosing to sit the better player. There are always reasons, some we don’t see or understand until after the game. I’ve been as critical as anyone about it and questioned Izzo after the game. He basically said Winston has to play harder. You know what? He was right, and when Winston came back in, he sparked the comeback. Both players matter to this team, whether fans buy it or not. Nairn won’t score 20 points, but he’s still vital to this team. That much is clear. And until Winston isn’t playing nearly 30 minutes a game, I’m not sure it’s that big of a deal.
Q. Any idea what former players might be at the game on Saturday? — @KirklandM79
A. No official list since the program doesn’t want to make it seem like a former player would commit to coming then something comes up last minute and they can’t make it. Rest assured, the number will be large. It has been for quite some time and it spans decades. It’s one of Izzo’s favorite weekends, to say the least. Izzo said he doesn’t expect Magic Johnson, but conceded you never know. The Hall of Famer usually comes to town a couple times a year and visits with the team, but it probably won’t be this weekend. But former players are always around, so I’m not sure I would rule anyone out.
Q. What recruit from the ’18 class are YOU most excited about? Excited in relative terms because I know you aren’t a “fan.” — @JakeMatheson4
A. I think most are enamored with all of the defensive backs, especially Kalon Gervin and Xavier Henderson. The depth is clearly there at that position and the defense got better as linebacker Chase Kline could also be an early contributor. But I’m keeping my eye on running back Elijah Collins. Obviously, LJ Scott will get the bulk of the carries. However, with the departure of Madre London, an opening has been created and Collins will likely get an opportunity.
Collins was the top running back in the state at UD-Jesuit and while the rankings might not say he’s a guy that can make an immediate impact, the Spartans’ coaching staff feels differently. Logic would say redshirt him and give him four full years after Scott is gone. But a solid preseason camp could lead to some spot duty and if that happens, you never know what sort of impact he could have.
Q. Summarize football late recruits and any outstanding needs, possible incoming transfers. — @chuckgsparty
A. That’s not hard to do since Michigan State signed only one player this week — wide receiver Jalen Nailor. He’s got speed, that’s for sure, and he comes from Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas, one of the top high school teams in the nation. There will be opportunity with the transfers of Trishton Jackson and Hunter Rison, but there’s plenty of talent left in the receiver group, so Nailor will have to stand out to play early. As for transfers, I’m not sure we’ll see too many more of those. Maybe after spring if some players realize they’re not where they need to be on the depth chart.
The Spartans did add three walk-ons this week. The one to keep an eye on is punter Will Przystup. Jake Hartbarger is entering his senior season, meaning the Spartans will need to develop his replacement. Przystup is a walk-on, but he’s also a player that could find himself on scholarship pretty quickly.