The Spartans got off to a slow start yesterday, but dismantled Wisconsin 65-52. Wisconsin was held to just 32 points in the last 30 minutes of game time and had a stretch of over 12 minutes without a field goal. MSU improves to 3-0 against Wisconsin on the season and Tom Izzo beat Bo Ryan for the first time ever in the Big Ten Tournament. Many demons, cancers, etc have been exorcised this season, but none so great as the one where Bo Ryan kicks Tom Izzo in the groin repeatedly at midcourt.
State kicked the game off by giving Wisconsin 9 free points while frittering away bunnies from a few feet out, getting called for a charge that wasn’t and Green turning the ball over LIKE A BOSS. Green’s only gear is the “LIKE A BOSS” gear. Austin Thornton summoned his inner Timbo dropped four straight three’s on Wisconsin and MSU was right back in it. State played stifling defense in the back half of the first and took a 35-25 lead into the locker room.
I credit this turnaround to the presence of the martyr, St. Bruce. Bruce Weber, former Illinois HC as of two days ago, was invited to the game as a guest of Tom Izzo. While normally I’d think it’s a bad idea to show up at something you were just excused from a few days ago, HE’S A MAN, HE’S 55!
What impressed me most about this game was the even distribution of scoring amongst players who saw more than 20 minutes. 14,13,12,9 and 9 for 36,38,28,36,21 minutes respectively. Payne finished with six points in 14 minutes and Trice finished with two points in nine minutes. What concerned me a bit is that Kearney didn’t look ready on offense or defense. It’s an unfair thing to ask Kearney to put in 15 quality minutes, but that’s where State is and what they need.
I like beating Bo Ryan. It makes my heart happy.
I picked OSU to beat MSU in the final matchup a few days ago. Maybe it’s a homer pick, maybe it’s just quality of play, but today I like MSU to win. WIth the exception of a couple of droughts in the past two games, MSU looks like it’s hardly lost a beat since Dawson went down. When OSU knocked off State just a week ago, it took Dawson’s unexpected exit for OSU to squeak out a two point win at the Breslin. This week, OSU has played two days in a row on a team where quality depth is already an issue. Matta’s teams are famous for running out of gas at an inconvenient time. I think today will only reconfirm what many Big Ten basketball fans already know, Matta doesn’t understand that his teams don’t need another Jared Sullenger, they need one or two more Austin Thorntons or Brandon Woods.
Many Big Ten title games are not important, this one is. In addition to settling the three-way tiebreaker for first place in the Big Ten this year, the winner of this game could likely receive a 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. That’s not all though. For me, when MSU won the national title in 2000, it wasn’t really a question. Going into the postseason, you could feel it around campus, it was almost a tangible thing. You’d walk by the rock and see the invisible national championship trophy on display. You’d sit down to watch a game and say “Well, it’s not going to be easier to win the national title when you brain fart a game away against Wright State.”
In 2000, MSU was a seven-loss 1 seed, and you couldn’t help but feel like the selection committee picked State as 1 because they wanted to back the winner. A seven-loss record doesn’t exactly command a 1 seed and yet, there we were. There was a feeling, a certainty that this title was MSU’s to lose.
Despite all of the setbacks the past week or so, it’s hard not to feel like that certainty is returning. Be it because Green is MSU’s most charasmatic leader since Cleaves or because MSU has quality depth and a host of freshmen who can get hot at just the right times. It feels ridiculous to be sitting here writing about how a team that was supposed to struggle to: make the tourney is in great shape to win the whole thing. Yet, that’s where we are and how I feel. Today goes a long way to confirming how valid that feeling is. Also, in case you’re keeping track at home, the last time MSU won the Big Ten tournament, they also won the BIg Dance.
Prediction: MSU by 11