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#pounditTuesday, July 16, 2024

Tom Izzo mismanaged end of Michigan State upset

Tom Izzo

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo couldn’t find a way to get his team better looks late in their loss to Syracuse — but he left two of his key players on the bench during crunch time.

Izzo leaned on sixth-year senior Ben Carter in the center of the Syracuse zone late in the 55-53 loss while freshman Jaren Jackson Jr. and sophomore Nick Ward sat on the bench.

Jackson is a projected lottery pick, and Ward had put up 10 points in 16 minutes of action before Izzo relegated him to cheerleader duty down the stretch.

In fact, Syracuse’s Braedon Bayer, a former walk-on pressed into duty due to foul trouble after playing just 11 minutes all season, ended up seeing more time on the floor during the second half than Ward did.

Izzo did, however, entrust Carter with playing in the middle of the zone. Carter hadn’t played double-digit minutes since November, but Izzo gave him 23 here, surpassing his previous season-high of 19. He scored only two points, and in one notable moment, he seemed to have a good look at the top of the key, but panicked and passed out of it.

It is somewhat defensible that Izzo left Jackson on the bench. The freshman struggled with the size and physicality of Syracuse’s big men. Ward, however, had no such issues. In fact, he had three offensive rebounds, and he could have grabbed a few of the Michigan State misses and potentially converted a few putbacks.

More importantly, leaving Carter to play in the middle of the zone was a huge error, as he did not show the necessary ability to either score from the midrange or create opportunities for someone else. Carter didn’t look like he had the courage to shoot and simply wasn’t suited to the role in such a big game. Perhaps putting Miles Bridges, another future lottery pick, in the middle would have opened up more opportunities — or at least given the Orange something else to think about. Instead, he was reduced to tossing up ill-fated three-pointers.

Yes, players need to knock down shots, and the Spartans had their opportunities to do that. Jim Boeheim also deserves a lot of credit for how he set up his team. Izzo, however, is regarded as one of the best March coaches of all-time, but he did not live up to that reputation here.

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