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The Spartans are Struggling, We Have to Talk About This Player

Michigan State’s season has been up and down. Many reasons have been discussed about why, and now it’s time to talk about Tre Holloman.

Michigan State v Rutgers Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Michigan State’s Men’s Basketball season has not gone according to plan. The Spartans are struggling to stay above .500 in Big Ten Play and are long out of consideration for the top of the Big Ten. Their focus now is building some late season momentum that can carry them into the postseason.

To understand the struggles, it’s time we talk about Tre Holloman.

Tre Holloman came to Michigan State as a highly ranked recruit. He was ranked as a four star recruit by 247 composite rankings, the 81st overall player, and the 12th best point guard of the 2022 class. As a high school senior, Holloman scored 18.8 points per game, dished out 10.4 assists and grabbed 8.8 rebounds a game on his way to being named Gatorade player of the year in the state of Minnesota.

These are stats of a budding superstar. The problem is this: there has been nothing super about Holloman’s play at MSU.

By the numbers, Holloman is shooting 33% for the year on 11 of 33 attempted shots, and has only made 2 three pointers. Looking just at conference play, Holloman has only taken 13 shots in 13 games played.

Beyond the numbers, the eye test is starting to get worse and worse. Holloman looked like a defensive beast early in the year. And while he has played credibly on that end, the early signs that he might be a steal machine have not turned into reality.

The true problem is his offense. Holloman is an offensive liability as an individual and a net negative to Michigan State’s ability to score points.

Since the start of the season, Holloman has looked more and more reticent to take even the most wide open shot. Because Holloman’s offensive limitations are so evident, opposing defenses are lagging off of him, cutting off passing lanes and clogging driving lanes for other players. Scoring droughts in the first half of many games, including at Maryland, are often triggered by Holloman’s entrance into the game around the 14 minute mark.

Holloman is averaging just 8 minutes a game in conference play. His two outliers were the games without Malik Hall; the January 19th matchup against Rutgers where he played 14 minutes, and the January 20th matchup against Indiana where he played 13 minutes. Every other game in 2023, he has played less than 10 minutes.

In theory, Holloman plays a position the Spartans didn’t need a Freshman to step up and play well. Michigan State starts two point guards in AJ Hoggard and Tyson Walker. Wing Jaden Akins is also playing more at the point in games, giving the team a credible third option when they need it.

On the face of it, that should be fine. Until you look at what it might mean if Holloman were able to provide even the most occasional of offensive spark, either as a distributor or scorer.

The knock on effects of not having a true backup point guard capable of playing 10+ quality minutes, and contributing 3-6 points a game are huge.

Coach Tom Izzo has made it clear he believes starting point guard AJ Hoggard is at his most effective if he is averaging 25-28 minutes a game. That means there should be 12 to 15 minutes a game for a true backup point guard. Recently, Holloman is getting less than half of that time, logging 7-minutes or less in the last 4 games.

This forces MSU to put lineups on the floor with Tyson Walker at the point guard, or even Jaden Akins. While both are capable of playing the point (particularly Walker), when they move to cover the point guard, it means someone must cover their standard role. Malik Hall sliding into the lineup off the bench helps alleviate some of this strain. But any time Hall is covering for Akins, or allowing Akins to slide over to cover for Walker at the two spot, that takes away minutes Hall could be covering for Joey Hauser. And this doesn’t account for the games where Walker has picked up early fouls, further confusing the lineup rotations.

Often times, Coach Izzo is forced to choose between inserting Holloman or Pierre Brooks - and neither are playing like credible threats at the moment.

MSU is already a thin team with just 10 scholarship players on the roster (yes, I know that is Izzo’s “fault” and not Holloman’s) Holloman, struggling to contribute at the point guard, plays a big role in weakening their depth from the 1 to 4 spot of the lineup.

To be clear, Michigan State is struggling for a wide range of issues. Injuries, problems at the center position, and overall roster size all play a role. Further, offensive inconsistency seems to plague this team. It’s hard to fathom how this team struggles to put up 70 points a game, when they have literally five players with the tools to average 15 points a game, yet rarely get more than two in double figures per game. None of these problems are the fault of Tre Holloman.

As a Freshman, Holloman is still a work in progress. Many great players have struggled their first year.

The problem is MSU needs more from him this year. And that is part of Michigan State’s bigger problem this year.