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Michigan State Men’s Basketball: Portland Preview

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NOV 18 Villanova at Michigan State Photo by Adam Ruff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Phil Knight Invitational Game Info/How to Watch:

Where: Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Portland, Oregon

When: Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022 at 5:30 p.m. ET

TV/Streaming (within the U.S.): ESPN

No. 12 Michigan State (4-2), No. 26 (Kenpom)

The Spartans picked up a crucial victory against Oregon in the second game of the Phil Knight Invitational (PK85) despite mounting adversity. This win will prove crucial because while both teams currently have seemingly endless injuries, only one team would necessarily add a tally to the win-column and secure the confidence-boost and affirmation of their mental toughness and ability to persevere.

Despite AJ Hoggard’s continued struggles to consistently compete and assert his talent, the Spartans dominated the battle of wills against a long and talent-laden opponent led by two outstanding senior performances from Joey Hauser and Tyson Walker. Hauser’s grit and toughness gave the Spartans a leader to follow all game long; fighting through a damaged ankle and matched-up against a potential lottery pick, Hauser hit crucial shots, passed well, and secured more rebounds than any other player in the game.

If Hauser led all game long, then Tyson Walker pushed the team and compelled them to follow Hauser’s example. Walker’s outstanding mid-range shot-making again paced the Spartan offense throughout and, where Hoggard struggled to solve the length of the Ducks’ defense, Walker’s passing game and composure guaranteed that his Spartan teammates were set-up to succeed wherever space opened in the Oregon zone.

With the two seniors leading the way, Pierre Brooks filled the needed role of third scorer, taking a career high in shots and scoring a career high 15 points. Brooks’ defense still cannot bother top-level players, but his competitiveness, willingness to scrap and compete, and his confidence were all at a level that leads to wins—every shot Brooks took was a good one, and on another night he may challenge Bryn Forbes’ record for three-point shots made in a game. Brooks earned his spurs against the Ducks.

Michigan State Depth Chart:

1 - A.J. Hoggard (6’4” Jr.), Tre Holloman (6’2” Fr.)
2 - Tyson Walker (6’0” Sr.), Jaden Akins (6’4” So., status uncertain)
3 - Pierre Brooks II (6’5” So.)
4 - Joey Hauser (6’9” Sr.)
5 - Mady Sissoko (6’9” Jr.), Jaxon Kohler (6’9” Fr.), Carson Cooper (6’11” Fr.)

With Malik Hall still injured (and Akins unlikely to play to), the song remains the same for the Michigan State. The Spartans have a final game in Portland as an undermanned squad in desperate need of a win. In this matchup, against a talented Portland team whose personnel and style will test the Spartans in the same way that Alabama’s did, the Spartans will need more than three high-level performers.

In the face of this need, however, it seems dubious that the help that Walker, Hauser, and Brooks need will come from the rest of the front-court: against both North Carolina (a loss) and Villanova (a win), Portland was able to more-or-less neutralize their opposition’s centers. For this reason, Tom Izzo will have to hope that AJ Hoggard and Tre Holloman can capture the best moments from their first two games in the PK85, and then exceed those moments for a full 40 minutes.

Hoggard cannot play passively, cannot pout, cannot show a moment’s hesitation, or lack of focus on either end. Hoggard must attack on offense, and stay glued to his man on the defensive end. Hoggard’s shooting and free-throw performances have been strong, and he must maintain his aggressiveness as a scorer, while getting back to causing havoc in the paint for the Pilots’ defense.

Holloman has taken significant strides in both the Alabama and Oregon games. While he has yet to put together complete games — in each game he has had stretches of minutes when he failed to execute plays or skills, or when his defensive acumen abandoned him — he has also demonstrated a knack for making meaningful plays, particularly on defense, where his length disrupts opposing players and his quickness stifles ball-handlers. If Holloman can bring a consistently aggressive approach on offense (he cannot pass up open shots), and not allow his defense to fall slack, then he has a chance to break tomorrow’s game open.

Portland (5-3), No. 108 (Kenpom)

Depth Chart:

1 - Tyler Robertson (6’6” Jr.), Mike Meadows (6’2” Jr.)
2 - Jack Perry (6’3” Sr.), Juan Sebastian Gorosito (6’1” Fr.)
3 - Chika Nduka (6’5” So.)
4 - Kristian Sjolund (6’8” Jr.), Alden Applewhite (6’7” Fr.)
5 - Moses Wood (6’8” Jr.), Joey St Pierre (6’10” Sr.), Vasilije Vucinic (6’10” So.)


Robertson, Sjolund, and Wood all score in double figures, and all three will take at least five three-point shots. Gorosito, Meadows, and Perry will also bomb away from three, and the entire team will attack the paint relentlessly to draw fouls and get to the free-throw line—particularly Applewhite and Wood.

This team turns the ball over a lot on offense and do not rebound on the offensive end, but does pressure the opponent’s defense with great ball-movement and a fast pace. Defensively, the Pilots struggle to defend the paint and concede a high percentage from two-point range.

Even with an undermanned team, the Spartans should be able to generate great looks against Portland, the question is whether or not they will make shots and prevent the Pilots from gaining confidence in front of their home-crowd.

Game plan:

Attack the paint, make shots, and stay attached to three-point shooters. This opponent has played really excellent basketball against North Carolina and Villanova, and Spartan fans should expect nothing less. This game will test Tom Izzo’s resolve and provide Hoggard a major opportunity to change how he feels about his performance in this tournament.

Hoggard needs to break the paint, and the Spartans need to stretch together multiple series of defensive and offensive possessions to break the game open. It was that 15-0 run the Spartans had in the first half against Oregon that proved to the team that it could hang-with and beat the Ducks. The ability to put-together runs of 10 or more points is a hallmark of a great team, and will likely herald a win.

Conversely, the ability of the Spartans to break cold-streaks this season has proved a durable feature of every game—in Hauser and Walker, Tom Izzo has two outstanding shot-makers in the half-court whose pet actions (generally well-executed pin-downs, double-screens from the ‘chest’ set, or pick-and-roll) have consistently produced high-efficiency offense. While the staff and team will long for the moment when these two will be re-united with Akins and Malik Hall, for the final game in the PK85, the Spartans will have to hope that Hoggard joins the ‘land of the living and fighting’.


Players play, tough players win. The Spartans have toughness, the will to win, and a refusal to be cowed by adversity. This will be a game where Hoggard begins to find himself, and Holloman and Brooks continue to build off of their recent successes.

Expect the Spartans to keep the pace slower (given their lack of depth), and to aggressively attack the offensive glass. Sissoko will pick up his second foul four minutes into the second half, and will play a surprising, given the mobility of the Portland front-court, 25 minutes or more.

Michigan State 78, Portland 68

Go Green