After two whoopings, courtesy of Maryland and North Carolina, and a less than stellar performance against Bradley, Spartan coach Tom Izzo is looking to correct many problems that have plagued the team.
Due to this being finals week, the Spartans have not played any games since Sunday, but they have had the chance to get in several practices. The Spartans have worked on numerous aspects of their game, which they hope to improve, before they play Alcorn State on Saturday and more importantly, the likes of Texas on the 20.
"I'm looking for our defense to pick up, for our turnovers to go down, and our free throw shooting to go up," Izzo said on Thursday. "We're looking to see if we can put more pressure on the ball now. Our defense was a little better in the last game. Hopefully, we'll take another step in this game."
Like other aspects of their game, the Spartans have played inconsistent defense this season. Last Sunday's game against Bradley was a prime example of the team's split personalities.
The first half was atrocious. The Spartans only held the lead because of a decided edge over the Braves when it came to talent. In the second half, the team played better defense, took better shots and made better decisions with the ball.
"The turnovers have been something that I don't even know how to talk about," Izzo said. "Some of them were so ridiculous that I wouldn't coach it different, I would just tell them to catch the ball."
The Spartans' play has baffled many fans and people all around the country as to how this top 10 team can look so out of sync, but Izzo knows what the problem is and how to correct it.
"I think just playing together and feeling comfortable with one another," explained Izzo. "If you look at the last two weeks, the actual time that we got to spend on Michigan State has been very slim."
A lack of practice time will have a negative effect on even the best teams. In this specific situation, the Spartans are a team with incredible depth that is still trying to make all of the puzzle pieces fit.
First, they have three contributing freshmen, one of which is limited due to knee surgery.
Last season, Chris Allen was set back with an injury which prevented him from playing like his normal self. And Durrell Summers also found little playing time with defensive struggles. With two players as important as Allen and Summers still getting used to playing big minutes at this level, it makes practice that much more important.
Plus, the Spartans are still learning how to play without Goran Suton on the floor. His absence has forced Izzo to use some players out of position and experiment even more than he would like to find cohesive lineups.
Izzo mentioned that he will try to keep the starting lineup and rotation the same for the next three or four games in hopes of building the players' comfort level.
It has been a week since MSU big man Goran Suton went under the knife for diagnostic surgery, and coach Tom Izzo is happy with what he has seen so far in the healing process.
"He's had minimal swelling for that kind of surgery, which is really a plus," Izzo said. "If I looked at where his knee is, and the fact that it hasn't swelled and he hasn't lost a lot of strength, the thought of at least having him do something in two to two-and-a-half weeks is good."
Izzo is confident that Suton will fully recover, but he is concerned about his conditioning. Izzo also noted that he expects Suton to start playing around the time when the Spartans will go to Houston to play the Longhorns, but that there is a "95-1" chance that he will not play.