Izzo still tinkering with MSU’s lineups

CORAL GABLES, Fla. — It was a typical November for Michigan State — making way for what Tom Izzo hopes is a typical December.

Novembers in Izzo’s program often involve some combination of big games, heavy travel, injuries, illnesses, flashes of potential and frustrating setbacks. This November went right down the checklist and ended with Wednesday’s 67-59 loss at Miami (Fla.).

Decembers are for practice and improvement. The No. 13 Spartans (5-2) just completed a stretch of five games in 11 days and will have just six in a span of 30, starting with Saturday’s home game against Nicholls State.

All will be in East Lansing except for a Dec. 15 trip to Bowling Green. And the Texas team that visits Dec. 22 has a loss to Chaminade on its record and a lot less talent than usual.

So before a Dec. 31 trip to surging Minnesota to start the Big Ten, the Spartans have time to work.

“It’s gonna get better once we get home and get our team and get our rotation down,” Izzo said. “I still like where I think we’ve got a chance to go, but I sure don’t like it right now.”

Izzo finally has everyone playing, thanks to Wednesday’s return of Travis Trice (concussion) and Gary Harris (shoulder sprain). That means he has the pieces to execute his planned execution of the big lineup that failed to prove itself against the big Hurricanes.

Izzo said that “experiment” might be “over,” which would mean more time for Branden Dawson at power forward, and more minutes for the guard depth that has returned.

It might mean a return to Izzo’s preseason emphasis on pressuring and forcing a fast pace. It doesn’t necessarily mean MSU will totally scrap playing two post players together in situations, but the big lineup seems to have diluted Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne. They shared center last season and scored 15.1 points a game in 36.8 combined minutes. They’re averaging 14.6 and 47.6 this season.

MSU’s loss was part of a 6-6 tie in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and led to a mild Twitter taunt from Michigan guard Trey Burke. Burke, who occasionally tweeted his enjoyment of MSU football failures, posted late in the game: “Miami of FL nice!”

MSU has been doubted and counted out in Novembers past, only to emerge in March. The Spartans need a December to figure out who’s going to play and where.

“It’s been a total mess for us,” Izzo said of the rotation. “But it’s gonna heal. It’s gonna heal because we’re gonna get healthy and we’re gonna get better.”



Posted by Tribune News Services

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