Final Four Preview: Michigan State’s Championship Identity

By Doug Brotherton

December 3, 2018 - East Lansing, MI, U.S. - EAST LANSING, MI - DECEMBER 03: Michigan State Spartans guard Cassius Winston (5) rushes up the court in transition during a Big Ten Conference college basketball game between Michigan State and Iowa on December 3, 2018, at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, MI. (Photo by Adam Ruff/Icon Sportswire) (Credit Image: © Adam Ruff/Icon SMI via ZUMA Press)

An analysis of the culture that defines Michigan State, which has led to another Final Four trip. Plus, some top plays to look for.

Final Four Team Previews: Texas Tech | Virginia | Auburn

When people mention the Michigan State Spartans basketball program, the first person that comes to mind is Head Coach Tom Izzo. His identity is found throughout the program, and the 2018-19 Spartans might align with his identity more than any team in recent memory. Coach Izzo teams are highly competitive and incredibly tough. They have a close bond, and their non-negotiables begin with defense and rebounding!

March Madness began with Izzo putting his competitive spirit (all opinions aside) on full display.

Current and former Spartans came to the defense of their coach, and demonstrating the bond that has been a staple of the program for years. Furthermore, freshman Aaron Henry, has responded with a level of toughness that has taken his game to another level. He has increased his productivity in every statistical category, while emerging as one of Michigan State’s best perimeter defenders.

As for those non-negotiables, the Spartans rank #4 in the country in rebounding margin, and #3 in opponent field goal percentage defense. The recipe for success for Michigan State still begins with defense and rebounding.

In preparation for Texas Tech, the top defensive team in the nation, it will be important for Michigan State to find ways to generate easy baskets. The Spartans like to do that in transition, led by their All-American Point Guard, Cassius Winston.

Another way that the Spartans generate easy baskets, once again, ties back to Coach Izzo. Michigan State gave Duke nightmares with ATOs, and well-timed half court sets. To wrap up this Final Four preview of Michigan State, let’s break down three sets to look for from the Spartans.

Click on a diagram to view full frame descriptions and download it to your FastDraw library.


DHO Clear Lob

MSU dho clear lob

Here is the video of this ATO, which @HalfCourtHoops calls, “Chin Empty Lob”

Horns Action

MSU horns

Here are two examples of “Horns,” via @HalfCourtHoops.

Horns Out Slip

MSU horns out slip

Here is a video of it, via @HalfCourtHoops, which he titled, “Slip.”


You can connect with me on my personal Twitter account, @CoachBrotherton , or via @DynamicCoaches. Thank you to @HalfCourtHoops for providing videos to go with our #FastModelMadness diagrams! He also has a complete Michigan State playbook available on his website. Go give him a follow on Twitter to see more video clips from the upcoming Final Four!


More from Doug Brotherton: All Plays & Drills | All Blog Posts | WNBA plays | Jay Bilas Skills Camp Recap

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Doug Brotherton
Doug Brotherton is entering his 15th year of coaching basketball, and his 7th year at the helm of The Village School girls varsity basketball program. He has coached boys high school basketball, girls high school basketball, and started the Men's Basketball program at Mid-Michigan Community College. Coach Brotherton is also very involved at all levels of basketball. He is a NBA Regional Advanced Scout for the Chicago Bulls. He is the founder of Dynamic Coaching Tools (www.dynamiccoachingtools.com). Coach Brotherton was elected as the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches Large Private School Board Member. This past year, Coach Brotherton helped develop the drill book and coaches packets for Jay Bilas Basketball Camps, as well as participating in its Coaching Development Program and presenting on the benefits of FastDraw. In 2018, Positive Coaches Alliance selected Coach Brotherton as one of the 50 Double-Goal Coach National Award Winners, for his positive impact on his athletes on the court and in life.
December 3, 2018 – East Lansing, MI, U.S. – EAST LANSING, MI – DECEMBER 03: Michigan State Spartans guard Cassius Winston (5) rushes up the court in transition during a Big Ten Conference college basketball game between Michigan State and Iowa on December 3, 2018, at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, MI. (Photo by Adam Ruff/Icon Sportswire) (Credit Image: © Adam Ruff/Icon SMI via ZUMA Press)
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