Sunday, March 22, 2009

T-Walt Goes David Thomas on the Trojans

Travis Walton carried Michigan State on his back as they beat USC 74-69 Sunday. His performance was almost identical to David Thomas's 2001 performance in the Elite Eight. Both players were ignored and given multiple open jump shots that they converted with ease.

Durrell Summers and Chris Allen stepped up magnificently also.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Big Ten Tournament Guide for Spartans Travelling to Indy

Please excuse my recent break. I have been trying to track down my own tickets for the Big Ten Tournament and neglected the site for a few days.

Since your blogger currently resides in Indianapolis, I thought that I would put together a few things that I would check out if I was visiting the tournament for the first time.

You Must Experience
1) Spartan Pep Rally - It occurs at the Westin at 7:00PM on Thursday and admission is free. I think this is the best part of the entire weekend as it provides an opportunity for alumni to interact with each other, and maybe even with Coach Izzo like last year. They also have free food at the event, but if I were you, I would get some food before hand because what they serve isn't very good. It's as if they transport pizza from Rick's Cafe in E.L. down to Indy for the event. If you like Rick's pizza, don't worry about it. Otherwise, Loughmiller's Pub is right next to the Westin and they have pretty good food.
2) The Big Ten Tournament- If you don't have tickets, don't worry, there are plenty of them that will be available outside of the stadium. Beware, however, that the face value of tickets for each session is very high. Your best bet to save some dough is to buy extra tickets off of fans and not scalpers. Especially fans of losing teams that are looking to dump tickets.

Consider Checking These Out (No particular order)
1) Coach's Tavern - This is my favorite bar in Indianapolis. It's your typical hang out place where you can throw back a couple of yellow pops before you go to the game. Its location is awesome as it is only one block North of Conseco Fieldhouse. The best day to go would be Saturday before the games as they will be having the prominent local sports radio station broadcasting live.
2) Slippery Noodle - This is the official Michigan State designated bar for the tournament. It's the oldest bar in Indianapolis and is known for its blues music. They have great food. The only problem is that it is not particularly close to the stadium. It's probably about a half of a mile away. But, you may find more Spartans there than anywhere else.
3) Circle City Mall - If you are staying downtown, you won't be able to avoid it. It's a popular city attraction, but really doesn't have many deals. It just looks nice.
4) Clauddaugh Irish Pub - For some reason, people in Indianapolis go to the Clauddaugh as if it's more of a bar than a restaurant. It's a very popular place. They are planning on having a tent outside for the Big Ten tournament on Sunday so it might be worth checking out. You can't beat the fish and chips at the Clauddaugh.
5) Fogo de chao - High end Brazilian steakhouse that is truly unique if you have never been there before. The food is unlimited and they bring you rounds of filet, chicken, beef, etc until you say stop. Vegatarians should avoid this place.
6) Broadripple - This is a particular neighborhood of Indianapolis that is known for having a long strip of bars. People from Michigan compare it to Royal Oak, but it's not as nice. The crowd is a little bit younger, but all and all, you can always find something to do there. It is about 6 miles north of downtown, but worth the trip if you plan on partying all night.
7) The Speedway - It's located out on the Westside. It would take you about 15 minutes from downtown to get there and I am told that they have tours daily.
8) Plump's Last Shot - This is a bar in Broadripple that is owned by Bobby Plump who is the real Jimmy Chittwood from the movie Hoosiers. The place isn't particularly nice, but it has numerous photos of the famous 1954 Milan high school team who won the state high school championship. You also could consider visiting Hinkle Fieldhouse which is less than 4 miles away.

If You Have Kids
1) Children's Museum - Is really great place for children. You could spend a whole day there and not see everything.
2) Indianapolis Zoo - It's smaller and more expensive than Detroit's. I would pass on it.

Friday - I will try to get a preview up in time for the game, but I can't promise as I will be at the Pep Rally tomorrow. I will also try to run down the games this weekend, but I'm not sure how much time I will have since I plan on attending most of them.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Michigan State Pays Back Purdue 62-51

The Spartans closed the regular season by getting a hard fought victory over Purdue. The Boilermakers were un able to overcome poor second half shooting as they lost to Michigan State 62-51. The Spartans were led by Kalin Lucas who had 21 points.

Player of the Game: Kalin Lucas (21 points, 5 rebs, 4 assists)

What Went Well for the Spartans
1) Defense - I will go ahead and blame Purdue's poor shooting on excellent Spartan defense although the Boilermakers looked like they missed a lot of open looks. Travis Walton continued his defensive hot streak and seemed to be all over the place. As a team, we also held Purdue to 4-23 from behind the three-point line.
2) Kalin Lucas - Kalin had a much better game than his 6 turnovers and 6-14 stat line showed. He did a great job directing the Spartan offense and was able to score effectively when he needed to. I wonder what was up with the undershirt?
3) Second Half Free Throw Shooting - When it looked like this game was going to come down to a free throw contest, the Spartans responded well by finishing 17-23 in the second half. Kalin was 7-8, while Suton and Allen were both 4-4.

What Didn't Go Well for Michigan State
1) Defensive Rebounding - Purdue is not a very good offensive rebounding team, but you would not have known it yesterday, especially in the first half. The Boilermakers finished with 12 offensive rebound for the game which is much higher than their season average. Maybe this was due to their unusually poor shooting from the floor.
2) Turnovers - We finished with 19 turnovers yesterday. Obviously, this is way too many. While I insist on getting the ball down low, we can't dump it in if it isn't open. Purdue was doing a great job denying our post men and we tried to force it too many times yesterday. We also had some careless turnovers in the open floor, especially in the second half. Raymar Morgan, what were you doing yesterday with just over 2 minutes left trying to throw the ball the length of the court?
3) Converting Offensive Rebounds - Yesterday's game looked just like the one at Purdue in this respect. We were missing point blank put backs that should have been easy twos. I guess we will have to credit Purdue's defense because this was the second game in a row that this has happened.
4) Poor Shooting - We finished 18-53 which was good for 35%. Much of this has to do with Purdue's defense, but this must improve in the post season.

I was pumped up after we won yesterday. After all, we beat the preseason favorite to win the Big Ten and won the conference by a four game margin. That is unbelievable.

After looking at the stats, however, my excitement quickly faded. 19 turnovers. 35% shooting. That's not exactly stellar. Did we win this game or did Purdue's poor shooting lose it? I mean, they only scored 20 points in the second half. I don't think too many NCAA tournament teams are going to have that happen against us in the future.

If nothing else, this game showed me that we haven't found an answer to our turnover problems, and when facing a great defense, our offense still struggles. I don't know if Izzo can correct either of these two things before the NCAA tournament. If he doesn't, we will be in a world of hurt.

Other Game Thoughts
1) Future Spartan Trivia Question - Who is the only Michigan State player to kiss the Spartan S twice? Ibok almost spent more time kissing the floor than he did standing on it yesterday. Actually, when he did play, he was busy being confused on which player to gaurd on pick and rolls. He left the shooter open twice yesterday.

DVD Giveaway
Congratulations to Ryan in North Carolina for winning the latest "Greatest Stories of Michigan State Basketball" DVD. I will send it out this week.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Purdue Preview #2

The long anticipated regular season finale is finally here except it lacks all of the attention that it once had received. Instead of playing for the conference championship, both teams will be playing to pad their resume for the NCAA tournament. Personally, however, I am looking forward to seeing how the Spartans respond to the Boilermakers' victory down in West Lafayette. Will they come out and show that they are a different team or will Purdue prove to everyone that, if healthy, they would have won the conference.

Purdue (22-8 Overall, 11-6 in the Big Ten)

Why Purdue Could Win
1) Pressure Defense - Purdue's in-your-face, high pressure defense tore us up in the last contest. It obviously frustrated our players as it forced a season high 22 turnovers. Michigan State will have to play with better focus this time around.
2) Three Point Shooting - Although the Boilermakers finished only 6-22 from behind the line, the majority of those three balls came in the first half off of open looks. The Spartans will have to tighten up their perimeter defense and not let Robbie Hummel get hot again.
3) JuJuan Johnson - Robbie Hummel's early outside shooting opened things up on the inside for JuJuan Johnson in the first game. He finished 5-7 from the field with 17 points. This can't happen again.
4) Efficient Offense Purdue still ranks second in the Big Ten in FG%. They are converting on over 46% of their shots from the field.
5) Defensive Rebounding - The Boilermakers are excellent defensive rebounders, despite their team's +0.6 rebounding margin. Earlier in the year, they even had more defensive rebounds that Michigan State. If they can limit Michigan State's second chance points, the Spartans will be in a world of hurt.

Spartan Keys to Victory
1) Let 'Em Play - With the conference championship wrapped up, I think it is time to let the horses run. Even with regards to seeding, this game is much more important for Purdue than it is for us. Let's counteract their pressure with an all out Y-ball attack. If they are going to be in Lucas's face the entire length of the court, then let him go all out. Don't make him run a robotic, structured offense that they have been preparing for all week. Maybe even throw some high pressure defense back at Purdue and see how they respond.
2) Limit Turnovers - As always, we have to take care of the ball.
3) Convert Offensive Rebounds - In the last game, we dominated the offensive glass with 15 boards, but we convert on less than a handful of them. Not converting on an offensive board might as well be categorized as a turnover. And, as you know, we already have too many of those.
4) X-Factors - Step up Allen and Summers. We need you.
5) Seniors - If it's me, I'm starting all of them. Izzo is worried that our lineup would be too big. Hey Coach, you started Herzog against Wisconsin because he didn't get into garbage time in the previous game. You can squeeze four seniors into the starting lineup to play the first two minutes. If you don't think they can match-up with Purdue, run some zone. Go with a 1-3-1 with Ibok out on top. That would be great.

Before the first game, I said that both teams had great defenses and that the game would be won by the team with the best offense. Unfortunately, on that night, it was Purdue. For this matchup, I'm going with the same philosophy.

In the last two games, I have been pleased with our offense. We countered Illinois high pressure defense well last weekend and executed to perfection. We also shot over 50% from the field against Indiana despite almost losing down in Bloomington. Our defense, on the other hand, has not been as stellar as it had been earlier in the year.

To beat Purdue, we will need to find ways to score consistently. I think dribble penetration is going to be key in this game as it will either lead to lay-ups or free up our big men for points in the paint. If nothing else, it will open up what should be the third option (an outside shot).

In the end, I think Michigan State rides their recent offensive success and finds a way to beat Purdue's pressure defense.

Michigan State over Purdue 68-58

Other Notes
1) Calipari Takes Shot at Michigan State, Others - The Memphis coach was defending Conference USA in this ESPN Article. Here is a quote from him:

"Ask UCLA and Michigan State if this league hurt us when we played them last year. We were up 50-20 on Michigan State. We beat Texas by 18 [85-67] in Houston. Teams in our league played us tougher than that."

Oh yeah....."You're a lousy f'ing softball player, Cal".

DVD Giveaway - Please Send Me Your Scores
I don't have many entries, so your chances of winning are really high. If you haven't seen it, it is a really nice DVD. It retails for $24.95 on

Tomorrow - Purdue Post Game

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Big Ten is Who We Thought They Were

First of all, I want to say that I am so proud of this team and happy that we have won our first outright title in 10 years. It has been long overdue. Of all the teams that we have had during that time span, I am surprised that this team was able to grab the conference crown when more talented Spartan teams could not. The only logical explanation is that the Big Ten is not as strong as it usually is.

Remember the 2005 team? Paul Davis, Maurice Ager, Shannon Brown, and Drew Neitzel? They couldn't get it done. They finished 13-3 in the conference, two games behind Wisconsin. Two games!

What about last year's team? Don't you think that we would be better off if we were able to get Drew Neitzel and Drew Naymick back in exchange for our three current freshmen? Well, that team didn't even come close. They finished 4 games out of first place.

So what's different? Why has the 2009 team whizzed through the conference schedule and have a chance to win the league by a four-game margin? Is it because they are that much better than the other teams we have had? I don't think so.

Rather than just go off of what I think is true, I decided to look into some statistics to see if they backed me up. I used Pomeroy Ratings to support my case, and I must be honest, some of his data is way too complicated so I excluded some of it. Using the data, I was able to compare this year’s team to the last 5 Michigan State teams. If you look at the table below, it is pretty easy to see the difference between this year’s team and the previous 5.

First, let's look at our current team's Adjusted Offensive Efficiency. As you can see, it ranks last among all Spartan teams since 2005. This is not that surprising as we have struggled offensively all year. The next column shows the team's adjusted defensive efficiency where a lower value actually means that a team plays better defense. This seems to be our team's strong point as they only trail the 2007 team in that category. That team finished 8-8 in the conference, however, despite a better offensive rating.

Next let's look how our team compares to the last 6 Big Ten champions:

Using the Ken Pomeroy rating, it’s fitting that only the 2006 Ohio State team ranks lower. Our offense, again, is the worst and our defense is at best, average. Also similar to the Ohio State team of 2006, we played easier teams as their strength of schedules (SOS) are also the two lowest.

Lastly, the argument that most people give for why they think the Big Ten is better this year is because of the success that perennial bottom-dwellers Northwestern and Penn State are having. So, instead of focusing solely on the leaders, I took a look at the entire Big Ten. Luckily, Pomeroy averages the Pomeroy ratings of each team within a conference to come up with an overall conference average. The table below features these values.

As you can see, only 2004 had a worse overall average rating, thus defying the arguments of even the biggest Big Ten fans. If, however, you get exclude Indiana and Iowa, who are both horrible, the conference rating goes up to 0.87, which would be at least average.

In the end, we should just be happy that we have won a Big Ten title. Like this past Tuesday, a win is a win, and a championship is a championship. But, we need to realize that our conference isn’t exactly your mom and dad’s Big Ten.

Michigan State Basketball Notes
1) Travis Walton Selected For Seth Davis's All-Glue Team - Find the article here. Finally some recognition for T-Walt. Maybe Walton will win Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. Chris Kramer was not on Davis's list.
2) Goran Suton One of Eight on Cover of SportsIllustrated - They picked MSU to make the final 8. That's funny since they picked Purdue to win the Big Ten and they aren't in their great eight.
3) Izzo Punks Out - Not going to shave his head until after the tournament. That's not cool. Why not wait to do it until it all falls out?
4) Izzo Now Reconsidering Big Ten Celebration - Initially I was thrilled when I heard Izzo say that there wasn't going to be a celebration on Sunday because he had learned from his mistakes in the past. Well, apparently he hasn't, because he now "may" have some kind of ceremony after the game. Well, you better win the game then coach.

Other Michigan State News
1) Mushin Muhammed's House on Ebay - It looks like the economy is affecting everyone. He listed it for only 1.9 million.

Exerpts from an email I received:

Once you watch the replay, you'll see that the ref walked into MSU's huddle and baited Izzo into that technical ("I'm tired of you effing screwing me" is what Coach said).

The loudest I ever remember the Brez was the Kentucky game in 2000 during winter break, with no Izzone. 46-45, MSU.

I'll never understand how they lost to Wright State on Dec 30, 1999, either, but I know why they lost to Hawaii -- Leg cramps. That's why we lost to Hawaii and why we lost to Gonzaga in 3OT after we beat Chaminade, too.

Eric, CA

1) Thanks for the insight on Izzo's technical. I saw the replay and I think you are 100% correct. That referee should receive some kind of punishment.
2) I remember the Kentucky game, but unlike you, I wasn't there. All I know is that Assembly Hall was rocking. I was really impressed.
3) We should never lose to Hawaii. I don't care if our players are forced to go murderball and play in wheelchairs. That leg cramp excuse was over played.

DVD Giveaway
I'll be giving away another "The Greatest Stories of Michigan State Basketball" DVD for Sunday's game against Purdue. The correct prediction of the winner and closest margin of victory will take the DVD home. Please email me or post a comment to the website to be entered.

Tomorrow - Purdue Preview #2

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Big Ten Champs!

Michigan State relied on another hot shooting performance to outlast Indiana 64-59 to win its first outright Big Ten title since the 1998-1999 season.

Player of the Game: Raymar Morgan (14 points, 7 rebounds)

What Went Well for the Spartans
1) Shooting - This was our second consecutive game where our offense came ready to play. The Spartans shot over 50% from the field finishing 22-43. We especially played really well in the first half by establishing Roe down low early in the game. He had all 7 of his points in the first 5:30. For some reason we got away from that later in the game. Instead, we relied on jump shots, which luckily for us, were falling in this game. If we didn't have one of our best shooting nights of the year, we wouldn't have won this game.
2) Raymar Morgan - Raymar played great yesterday. Like I said after last game, he looks like he is finally back although he still only played 22 minutes last night. He hit all of his shots from the floor, including a huge monster jam to seal the victory. How is that not on ESPN's top plays? It was a great play, and unlike most that usually make it to the highlight reel, it was a play that mattered. Ridiculous.

What Didn't Go Well for Michigan State
1) Defense - Indiana essentially dominated this game offensively. The Hoosiers dictated the tempo and were able to get any shot that they wanted in this game. Their long, drawn out possessions wore us down and we had many mental lapses that led to uncontested layups for Indiana. Shockingly, the Hoosiers won the points in the paint battle 28-22 despite their best weapons being Kyle Taber (a walk-on) and Tom Pritchard (a freshman).
2) Turnovers - The raw number of 14 isn't really that bad, but when you consider how the total number of possessions was lower than normal, you recognize how careless we were with the ball. Of the 14 turnovers, only 6 of them came off of steals, meaning MSU just threw the ball away, or more likely, travelled with it.
3) Technical Foul - Being at the game myself, I don't know what exactly Izzo did. Talking with friends, he was giving it to the refs, presumably about the travelling call on Lucas. Whatever the reason, it was a horrible mental mistake. Sure, the refs were calling every little ticky-tac foul, but it went both ways and to argue with them to the point of getting a technical is irresponsible. It lead to a monstrous comeback and I would have liked to have heard from Tom Izzo if we lost that game.
4) Too Many Jump Shots - Aside from the first 5 minutes, we didn't emphasize getting the ball down low enough. Once again, Indiana outscored us in the paint. Regardless of what our defense did, Suton should have dominated in the paint, and he didn't. Even Raymar, who had a great game, couldn't post up Brett Finkelmeier, a 6-1 guard. Did anyone see this? That little guy was pushing the hell out of Raymar down on the block and really frustrated him. His feistiness didn't allow a single point from Morgan in the paint and even created a turnover.

Having went to the game, I have to say, it was more of a nerve-racking experience than it was fun. For most of the second half, all I could think to myself was "Why does this always happen to us? Why do we lose these games?" How could we lose to Northwestern, Penn State, and potentially Indiana in the same year? How did we lose to Iowa and Penn State last year? Or what about at Hawaii in 2005? Or, for god sakes, how did the national championship team ever lose at Wright State in 2000? Unfortunately, I don't have an answer for you.

But, on this night, we somehow managed to pull out of the second-half tailspin we were in. Raymar Morgan rose to the occasion and his spectacular put-back dunk finished off what was otherwise a poorly designed play to win the game. I probably will always remember how I felt when he slammed it home. Instead of jumping up and down in excitement, I gave a strong fist pump, belted out a cheesy "Yeah!", and then calmly watched the rest of the game in silence. At that time, I wasn't happy, but I was relieved. Relieved that we didn't blow a Big Ten championship in dramatic fashion.

Post-Game Quotes

"It's probably the most rewarding (championship) because of what we went through. It just doesn't feel like it tonight."
--Tom Izzo

"That play was just on instinct. I just saw the ball come off and knew that I could make a play on it. Luckily, I did. It felt great." --Raymar Morgan

"No matter how we won today, no matter the down moments, we scrapped and fought and went 8-1 on the road. Not too many teams can say they went 8-1 on the road." --Travis Walton

"That's the loudest I've ever heard them." --Indiana Forward Malik Story on the home crowd

Other Game Notes
1) Assembly Hall Was Louder Than the Breslin - Just to give you an idea of what I'm comparing it to, I was in the Izzone during the most recent "Glory Days" from 1997-2001. Last night, Assembly Hall was the loudest place I have ever been to. In particular, when they hit that three pointer to cut the lead to two points, I couldn't hear my wife next to me. Sure, Assembly Hall is bigger, but their fans really got into the game. No one has to tell even the alumni when to stand up. They know. They have lived Indiana basketball their entire lives.
2) Tom Izzo Declined Trophy Presentation - Apparently, prior to the game, the Big Ten had offered a trophy presentation to Michigan State if we were to beat Indiana, but Tom Izzo declined it. Thank god for that! It would have been brutal. He also said that there will be no pregame celebration before Purdue. I think that is a great idea too!

Other News
1) ESPN Article Features Flint Basketball - The link is here. It's pretty much your standard "blue-collared kids from Flint play good basketball" piece. It's not bad, but Jarred Field of the Flint Journal is fed up with this type of story apparently. He has his own response to this particular article. It can be found here.

DVD Giveaway
I'll be giving away another "The Greatest Stories of Michigan State Basketball" DVD for Sunday's game against Purdue. The correct prediction of the winner and closest margin of victory will take the DVD home. Please email me or post a comment to the website to be entered.

Break - I may be taking a day or two off. Check back sometime this week.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Indiana Preview #2

The Spartans continue on to Bloomington tonight as they look to wrap up the outright Big Ten title. Tom Crean will host Tom Izzo as the two will meet for the third time ever.

Indiana (6-22 overall, 1-15 in conference)

Why Indiana Could Win
1) Rebounding - This clearly is Indiana's strength. Currently, they are fourth in the conference in rebounding margin at +2. Compared to Michigan State's +11, however, the Hoosiers appear
2) Motivation - Indiana is coming off a great game at Penn State where they only lost by 3. Coming off of one of their worst years ever, this is one of the biggest games that they have all year. They are playing the Spartans at home with a chance for a big upset that they hope can carry over to next season.
3) Confidence - After their competitive first half against the Spartans earlier in the year, I am sure that Indiana thinks that they can hang with Michigan State. That game was much closer than the final score indicated and if the Hoosiers have a few things go their way, they will be in this game.
4) Assembly Hall - Once again, this is another venue where the Spartans have not played very well in recent years. Tom Izzo is only 2-9 in Bloomington and hasn't won at Assembly Hall in six years. I'm sure the place will be rocking since they are hosting the Big Ten champs.

Michigan State Keys to Victory
1) Efficient Offense - In their first meeting, Michigan State's offense struggled in the first half. They got off to a slow start and allowed Indiana to hang around. Kalin Lucas did not shoot the ball well as he finished 4-15. Durrell Summers also finished 1-11 including 0-8 from the 3-point line. Since that game, however, Tom Izzo has shifted the focus of the offense and has emphasized getting the ball into the post. The Spartans should be able to dominate in the paint so look for a lot of touches for Goran Suton and Delvon Roe.
2) Rebounding - As this is Indiana's strength, we will have to counter it and show them why we lead the Big Ten in this category. By cleaning up the glass, we will limit Indiana's offensive opportunities.
3) Perimeter Defense - Indiana is not a bad three-point shooting team. Within the Big Ten season, they are shooting just over 35% from distance. It will be important for Michigan State to defend the three-point shot as I think it is an essential aspect of the game that the Hoosiers will need to beat a more talented team like the Spartans.

I said this yesterday, but today's matchup against Indiana is the ultimate trap game. The Hoosiers fall near the bottom in almost every conference statistic and are obviously outmanned as their roster is filled with numerous first year and junior college transfer players. With that being said, they still have a shot at beating us. Crazier things have happened. I would argue that losing to Northwestern at home was less likely to happen than Indiana's chances of beating us down in Bloomington. Sure, Northwestern is the better team, but we were playing at home in a building where we never lose. Tonight, we play a worse team, but in a building where we struggle to win despite normally having a better team and we are doing so on only one day of rest.

In the end, I think that Spartans have too much talent to lose against Tom Crean's team. Indiana will play with passion, but I think the Spartans know that tonight is a must win game. They don't want their chances of winning an outright title to come down to the season finale against Purdue in the Breslin Center. Tonight is the night we get it done.

Michigan State over Indiana 77-58.

Other Michigan State Notes
1) Free Press Compares Spartans to '00 Team - The link can be found here. This is ridiculous. I'll tell you right now, that even if this team pulls off a miracle and somehow wins a national title this year, they won't compare to the 2000 team. Not only are they not as tough, they also lack the talent that the 2000 team had. That team had Jason Richardson coming off of the bench! This is a classic example of how a less competitive Big Ten is making Spartan fans think that our team is better than we actually are.
2) The Bleacher Report Ranks Top 5 Spartan Tournament Games - The link is here. It's not a bad list. Here's my own since Tom Izzo has been coach.

  • #5 - Duke vs. Michigan State 2005 - Just because it was Duke and no one ever thought we would win that game. Maurice Ager's dunk over J.J. Reddick was classic
  • #4 - Michigan State vs. Princeton 1998 - This was the victory that started it all. The Tigers came into the game 27-1 with their only loss coming to number one seed North Carolina earlier in the year. I was there in person and remember it clearly. The best was how the Spartans were winning by 2 with 40 seconds left and Mateen jacked up a horrible 22-foot three that miraculously went in. The rest was history.
  • #3 - Kentucky vs. Michigan State 2005 - The Spartans upset the Wildcats, but almost blew a late lead as Kentucky forced overtime on Patrick Sparks' three-pointer at the buzzer.
  • #2 - Iowa State vs. Michigan State 2000 - I still feel like we beat a better team that day. The best part was Mo Pete's back door alley-oop play to win the game. Why don't we run that anymore?
  • #1 - Florida vs. Michigan State 2000. The basketball wasn't that great, but the dramatics of Mateen and winning the championship was priceless.

"IU has clinched 11th place in the conference." -

I thought that this was pretty funny since it is written so matter of fact.

Tomorrow: Indiana Post Game

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Michigan State Clinches Share of Big Ten Title by Beating Illinois 74-66

Michigan State looked like a different team yesterday as they scored effectively throughout the game and clinched a share of the Big Ten title. Kalin Lucas led the Spartans with 18 points and Raymar Morgan had 14.

Player of the Game: Kalin Lucas (18 points on 7-14 shooting)

What Went Well for the Spartans
1) Offense - Tom Izzo did a great job adjusting to the pressure of Illinois. We were able to get many baskets utilizing back door cuts. We also established our selves inside early and won the points in the paint battle 42-16. That is phenomenal. We also were able to convert some key Illini turnovers into points.
2) Kalin Lucas - He was back to his early Big Ten season form. He was able to score effectively and orchestrated the Spartan offense with ease. Early in the first half, Kalin was able to shut the Orange Krush up by answering momentum changing plays by the Illini with baskets of his own.
3) Raymar Morgan - Yesterday was the first game since his illness that I felt Raymar Morgan brought something to the table. He hustled and played well. He finished with 14 points in 22 minutes including a nice dunk in transition over Calvin Brock
4) Turnovers - Coach Izzo must have allowed his players to play more aggressive defense yesterday because we were able to force 17 Illini turnovers. Travis Walton had one of his best performances as a Spartan as he shut down McCamey and created numerous fast breaks after steals. He also shot the ball well finishing 4-5 from the field.
5) Defense - Although it wasn't stellar, the defense still played solidly. We won the rebounding battle, although only by 5, and we got some key minutes from I Dunk, I Block.

What Didn't Go Well for Michigan State
1) Chris Allen/Durrell Summers - I would have never imagined that we would have had such a great offensive game knowing how Chris Allen and Durrell Summers played in this game. Neither contributed very much which led Tom Izzo to let Travis Walton steal some of their playing time. Allen had more turnovers than baskets and Summers was 1-6 before his two late game dunks. These guys need to step their games up.

Yesterday's game felt different than any of the other games so far this year. Our offense looked very coordinated and we had almost every player contribute in some sort of way. Whatever Tom Izzo did this past week in practice truly had an effect because our players played inspired. They were beaming with confidence and it showed out on the court. Hopefully he can get this every night from now until the middle of April.

It still didn't quite feel like a true league championship, however. Maybe that will change on Tuesday night if we find a way to beat Indiana. Coach Izzo knows the importance of this game. In fact, the team isn't even going back to East Lansing. Instead, they left yesterday to go straight to Bloomington to avoid any unnecessary distractions. I think that is a great idea because this is the ultimate "trap" game.

Post-Game Quotes
"It was a panic decision. When we couldn't handle Tisdale. Ibok did a great job and stepped up for us." --Tom Izzo

I'd have to say that's one of the bigger wins I've been involved with. To clinch a share of it at a place that I have so much respect for... I thought we played, at times, some of our best basketball." --Tom Izzo

I agree. To win at Assembly Hall with the title at stake is an amazing accomplishment. The victory was much more than us just beating a #20 ranked team.

"This means a lot, but it's a share. We want to go to Indiana, play a good game and win it outright." --Travis Walton

I know you believe this T-Walt, but do your teammates? You better pound this into their head, because Indiana will be ready to knock off the Big Ten champs on Tuesday.

"With Izzo, fans might criticize his in-game decisions, but it's hard to knock his passion. I don't believe any coach is perfect, but it's hard to find anymore more perfect for MSU." Eric Lacy, The Detroit News

Very well said. As much as I criticize Coach Izzo, I agree with this statement. He is the face of the program and his passion trickled down and inspired our players yesterday.

Other Game Notes
1) Take It Easy Ref- Steve Olson missed the first few minutes of the second half due to illness. He went to the locker room, received IV fluids, and then returned to finish the game. A ref getting IV fluids is a little bit over the top for me. Just take a seat ref.
2) Tom Flailing on the Ground - In the second half, Tom Izzo was shown on his knees whining after Travis Walton fouled Chester Frazier on a 3-pointer. On his knees! What the hell? This is what Kirke from Wisconsin is talking about when he says that he can't respect how Tom Izzo conducts himself on the sideline.
3) Chester Frazier Wants to Coach - Link to the article here. Tom Izzo is quoted as saying that if Webber doesn't want him, the Spartans will take him. Speaking of which, it is about time that Coach gives Mateen a call and convinces him to join our staff. I always thought that he would make a good coach. Actually, now that UM-Flint is going to have athletics, Cleaves would be perfect for that.

That's Ridiculous
1. Sheyer Travelling - I'll quote Seth Greenburg from two years ago when Duke got away with similar calls against his Virginia Tech team: "Certainly, Duke is Duke. They are on tv more than Leave it to Beaver." Not only did Sheyer get away with it, he got to the line. Ri-dic-u-lous.

2) The Apprentice Cast - Dennis Rodman and Andrew Dice Clay on the same team. That's phenomenal. Too bad Dice got booted so early. The women's team, however, could have used a few more big names. One of the chicks on there is a model on Deal or No Deal. Another is a celebrity poker player. Apparently, Ricki Lake was not available.
3) Brandon Marshall Arrested - T.O. II was thrown in jail for disorderly conduct. He was allegedly involved in a fight in Atlanta. This is his fourth incident since March 2006

DVD Giveaway
Congratulations to Bryan of Fenton, MI who won "The Greatest Stories of Michigan State Basketball" DVD for his prediction of yesterdays game. He anticipated a 7-point Spartan victory.

Tomorrow - Indiana Preview #2

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Illinois Preview and DVD Giveaway

Illinois (23-6 overall, 11-5 in conference)

Why Illinois Could Win:
1) Defense - The Illini currently lead the Big Ten in scoring defense allowing just over 55 points per game within the conference. They are holding their opponents to less than 39% shooting which also leads the Big Ten.
2) Efficient Passing - Illinois tops the conference in both assists and in assist-to-turnover ratio. They are also converting on more than 44% of their shots from the field.
3) Turnovers - The Illini don't really create a lot of turnovers, but they also don't turn the ball over themselves very much. Currently they are third in the league at +1.4. Any team that is has a margin over 0 could be trouble for Michigan State.
4) Home Court Advantage - Last year's victory at Illinois marked Michigan State's first win at Assembly Hall since 2002. Within that streak, we have had some miserable losses including the 2003 70-40 drubbing. I personally hate it when we play there, but I think that Orange Krush is great. If not for anything else, I like the orange shirts. It's better than plain white. The Izzone needs to go back to green by the way. Bring back the 1998 XLs with the huge neck holes for everyone to where.

Keys to a Michigan State Victory:
1) Efficient Offense - The scary part of going over the first Illinois game was how we actually shot okay against them, but yet the game was still close. In the first contest, MSU finished shooting 40% from the field. Tomorrow, we will need a similarly good percentage to assure a victory. We won't be able to rely solely on defense like we have in the past because Illinois has a great defense to. I know it is rocket science, but in order to beat teams, you have to score more points that the other guy. We will probably need to open things up a little bit on the break and if it's not there, we will have to pound it inside.
2) Rebounds - We dominated the first game in this area with a 42-30 edge. They did manage 12 offensive boards, however, and this was when we had a healthy Raymar Morgan.
3) Limit Turnovers - Obviously. The first matchup between these two teams was when our turnover problem first became exposed. We had 18 total and luckily, the Illini had an uncharacteristic 18 themselves. We can't have 18 again.
4) Bench - We will need someone from the bench to step up for us. In the last game, we got a great spark from Marquis Gray with 11 points in 15 minutes. Who is going to step up for us in this game?

Tomorrow's game could be a defining moment for this Michigan State basketball team. They are facing a team that is sitting in second place within the conference and are going into a hostile environment to play for at least a share of the conference title. A win here and the Spartans would create some momentum that could potentially lead to a string of victories and even allow us to sneak into a number one seed if other teams were to lose.

The task at hand, however, is not easy. Traditionally, the Spartans don't play well down at Assembly Hall and the Illini have only lost two games at home so far. They even blew Purdue out earlier in the year in front of the Orange Krush.

For much of the Big Ten season, our offense has not been clicking. We haven't shot the ball very well and in the last four games, we haven't eclipsed the 70-point mark a single time. We also continue to turn the ball over carelessly despite Coach Izzo saying after every game how they are working on it. The failure to improve in these two areas leads me to go with the Illini in this matchup, especially at Assembly Hall.

Illinois over Michigan State 64-51

Other Michigan State Notes
1) Izzo Backtracking On Shaving His Head - Apparently, at the beginning of the season, Izzo said that he would shave his head if we won the Big Ten regular season title in light of the players cutting their own hair. Now he says that he will probably do it if they win it outright. If he was to do this, I would be shocked. It is so Bruce Pearl-ish, but I think it would be funny. He would get a lot of national attention for doing so, which might even help us out a smidge.
2) Durrell Summers Ankle is Fine - He practiced yesterday and should be ready to go for tomorrow.

"Yeah, the door's been opened wider, but I want to win coming through the front door, not the back door."
--Tom Izzo after Purdue's loss to Michigan

Most of us would agree with this statement, but I must caution everyone that we definitely could lose to Indiana. Yeah, Indiana. They are a great rebounding team and in the first half of our game earlier this year, they played us very tough. The game was closer than the 75-57 score indicated. If for nothing else, we should be worried because I will be in attendance at that game. Michigan State athletics is 3-9 in games that I attend in the state of Indiana.

DVD Giveaway
I am giving away a free DVD of "The Greatest Stories of Michigan State Basketball" complements of Genius products to the reader with the closest prediction for Sunday's game at Illinois. Either post a comment to the website or send me an email with your prediction, the margin of victory and the total points. Who ever picks the correct team and has the closest margin of victory will win a free copy. Total points will be used for any tiebreakers.

So far, I don't have that many entries, so your chances of winning are really good.

Tomorrow: Illinois Post Game (probably a few hours after the game)

Friday, February 27, 2009

Bitter Sweet

Michigan Beats Purdue 87-78
Michigan was able to do what Michigan State couldn't. They shot the ball really well. DeShawn Simms and Manny Harris had 29 and 27 points respectively and the Wolverines shot 80% in the second half.

I honestly couldn't root for the Wolverines although thier victory really helps us out. With the win, Michigan State essentially can back into at least a share of the conference title if they have to. Hopefully, they take care of business and win out, but I don't think that is going to happen considering how we are playing. I think we will lose at least one of our last three.

DVD Giveaway
I will be giving away a free DVD of "The Greatest Stories of Michigan State Basketball" complements of Genius products to the reader with the closest prediction for Sunday's game at Illinois. Either post a comment to the website or send me an email with who you think will win, the margin of victory, and the total points of the two teams. Who ever picks the correct team and has the closest margin of victory will win a free copy. Total points will be used for any tiebrakers.

Tomorrow - Illinois Preview

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Michigan State Gets Past Iowa 62-54

Michigan State won unimpressively yesterday over a depleted Iowa team. The Spartans were plagued by excessive turnovers and by poor performances from upper classmen. Delvon Roe and Korie Lucious were bright spots however, as the two finished with 16 and 12 points respectively.

Player of the Game: Delvon Roe (16 points, 3 rebounds)

What Went Well for the Spartans
1) Delvon Roe - He was the lone bright spot among the big men. He provided a consistent low post threat and shot the ball very well. He is developing a solid all round game.
2) Korie Luciuos - As I have said before, I love this kid. Not necessarily because of his ability to score, but because of his energy and his great passing ability. Tonight, he placed himself in the spot light by hitting three consecutive three-pointers late in the first half. These really opened things up for the Spartans and could have been the difference in the game. He also played pretty solid defense with his 5-second call being a great example.
3) Defense - Coach Izzo let our team play with a little more intensity on the defensive end and it paid off with numerous Iowa turnovers. We also dominated the boards and held Iowa to just two offensive rebounds. I don't know if I have ever seen that before.

What Didn't Go Well for Michigan State
1) Turnovers - I haven't seen one ounce of improvement in this regard since the Purdue game. You would have thought that the Wisconsin game would have scared our players and forced them to take care of the ball better, but tonight showed that this was not the case. We will not beat Illinois this weekend unless we are more careful with the ball.
2) Offense - We are not getting enough production down low and are still relying on too many outside shots. We shot 18 threes against a team who plays one forward over 6-7. There is no reason for this. After last night, our streak of not getting to 70 points is now 4 games.
3) Goran Suton - He was really that productive. He played 30 minutes and finished with 9 points and 4 rebounds against a smaller, less talented Hawkeye team. I was expecting more from him.
4) Kalin Lucas - Although he had a lot of assists, he still had some dumb turnovers in this game. We also can't have him not scoring until less than 10 minutes left in the game. What happened to him penetrating so well?
5) Marquise Gray - Although I am a big believer in this guy's potential, I am reluctantly giving in by saying that, at this point, I would turn to Green over Gray from here on out. I knew that Gray was going to get more minutes tonight and I was hoping that he would play like he did against Illinois earlier this year. Obviously this did not happen. Instead, he looked lost and had multiple turnovers.

In all honesty, Michigan State should have blown Iowa out by 20+ points. With their injuries and suspensions, the Hawkeyes are extremely depleted and probably are the worst team in the conference at this point. Yet, they were able to hang with us on our home court. That doesn't make sense.

After watching this game, I actually feel worse that I did after we snuck one out against Wisconsin. The Spartans have not shown me anything that indicates they are ready to step their game up during the final three games of the season. We are still turning the ball over, we can't score, and at least in this last game, our best players are not playing well.

Post-Game Quotes
"I would say you'd have to classify us as kind of dysfunctional offensively."
--Tom Izzo

"We would have lost (without them) and we could have anyway."
--Tom Izzo regarding the play of our freshmen

Other Game Notes
1) Did the Izzone Boo Roe After a Missed FT? - I had a similar reaction to Izzo. I didn't know if they were booing him, or if they were making noise about another play or something. I am hoping it was the later.
2) Travis Walton Featured on Big Ten Tonight - I thought this was an excellent piece on T Walt. It showed his pride in Michigan State and demonstrated his strong leadership qualities.
3) Dan Dakich on Big Ten Tonight - I liked his presence on the show. It's funny how he criticized Michigan State for not playing well, but earlier in the year when I hinted at Izzo being overrated nationally on his Indianapolis radio show, he scoffed at me.
4) "Spartan Roe-mance" - Was a great lead-in to the BTT. Props to them.

That's Ridiculous
1) USC Punter Stronger than OL, Faster than LBs at Combine - An Incredible story in the LA times about USC's punter David Buehler at the NFL combine can be found here. According to, Buehler put up 225lbs 25 times which was more reps than fellow teammate Ray Maualuga and projected 1st-round offensive lineman Eugene Monroe and Michael Oher. He also ran the 40 with unofficial times of of 4.56 and 4.63 seconds, which were faster than USC linebackers Brian Cushing (4.74) and Clay Matthews (4.67). There is no mention in the article as to whether or not this guy can actually punt.

Tomorrow - More Iowa post-game and details about the DVD giveaway.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Iowa Preview #2

Iowa (14-13 overall, 4-10 in conference)

Why Iowa Could Win:
1) Good 3-Pt Shooting - The Hawkeyes have continued to rely on their outside shooting. Nearly 40% of their offense this year has come from 3-pointers. Freshman start Matt Gatens leads them with a 38% conversion rate from behind the arc. He was held in check during the last matchup and finished 3-8 from distance with 13 points.
2) Free Throw Shooting - This is one of the few bright spots on this Iowa team. Within Big Ten play, the Hawkeyes have hit over 74% of their free throws. If it is a close game, this could make a difference.
3) Good Coaching - Despite their poor conference record, Todd Lickliter is doing a great job with this team. Just before the conference started, he lost his second leading scorer, Anthony Tucker, to academic inelgibility and his best rebounder, Cyrus Tate, to injury. He has still managed wins over Wisconsin and Michigan during this time. In all honesty, this is one of the most depleted teams that I have ever seen in the Big Ten and for them to have one four games so far is a major accomplishment.
4) Stamina - I just had to throw this in because they had four players play all of regulation and overtime against Michigan on Sunday. I have never seen that before. Four guys with fourty-five minutes? That has to be some kind of record.

Keys to a Michigan State Victory:
1) Score Early - I think it is important to jump ahead early against a depleted team like Iowa. We can't afford to let them hang around and think that they can win this game. The longer the game stays close, the more confidence that they will have.
2) Rebounding - The Hawkeyes surprisingly did a good job against Michigan State on the glass in their last matchup. The Spartans only grabbed 8 more rebounds than Iowa. Michigan State will need to continue their dominence on the boards.
3) Pound It Down Low - I didn't think that we exploited Iowa's lack of size very well in the first meeting. Cyrus Tate is their most dominate low post presence, but he has played very sparingly after he hurt his ankle. I think we really need to establish our bigs down on the block. Suton should be a big matchup problem for the Iowa defense. I also think that Gray would be a good option in this game.
4) Limit Turnovers - I should just say this for every game. We will have a hard time beating any team if we don't take care of the ball.
5) Push the Ball - Look for the Spartans to really dictate the tempo of this game. Iowa isn't nearly as athletic as we are.

As appealing as it sounds, I do not think that this will be a trap game for Michigan State. I do not see any possible way that Iowa could manage to beat Michigan State at home with their limited roster. It would take 20+ turnovers from Michigan State and a very strong individual performance from Matt Gatens for the Hawkeyes to get the win.

In the end, Michigan State stays focused and eclipses 70 points for the first time in their last three games.

Michigan State over Iowa 74-59.

"We have to improve offensively and we have to quit turning the ball over."
--Tom Izzo

"I thought he was a stretch at Penn State. Boy, was I wrong."
--Tom Izzo on the recruitment of Jamaal Cornley. Link to the article here.

Other Michigan State Notes
1) Izzo Ranked Sixth Best College Basketball Coach by Forbes - The magazine used a number of criteria, but essentially it goes back four years and takes into account Final Four appearances, championships, recruiting success, and graduation rates. Roy Williams was number one, followed by Bill Self, Ben Howland, Coach K, and Billy Donovan. In my own, unresearched poll, I put Coach K as number one, although I despise him. You can find the story here.
2) Jim Boylen Thriving at Utah - Link to article here. The Utes are winning their conference and are 19-7 overall.
3) Izzo's Name Still Being Mentioned in Arizona - Link is here. I can't see it happening. I see Izzo pulling a Barry Sanders some day and abruptly retiring, but not leaving to go to another university.

Free MSU DVD Giveaway
Keep checking back on the blog as I will be giving out DVDs of "Greatest Stories of Michigan State Basketball." This was featured earlier in the year on the Big Ten Network. I plan on having a contest of predicting the result and score of the Illinois game on Saturday.

That's Ridiculous
Just in case you didn't check out the link from yesterday:

Tomorrow: Iowa Post Game.

Free DVD Giveaway and Michigan State Notes

Michigan State Notes
1) Tom Herzog Featured in LSJ - The arcitle can be found here. The only thing more ridiculous than him starting the Wisconsin game is this article. Herzog reports eating 5000 calories and that his ability to gain weight and play well is due to an anxiety disorder. If he sees more playing time, I will have an anxiety disorder.
2) Rankings - Michigan State only slipped to #9 in both polls. I thought they would have slid further, but I'll take it.
3) Joe Lunardi Has Michigan State as #3 Seed in the South - Can be found in his latest bracketology. That would be a disappointment.

Free MSU DVD Giveaway
Keep checking back on the blog as I will be giving out DVDs of "Greatest Stories of Michigan State Basketball." This was featured earlier in the year on the Big Ten Network. I plan on having a contest of predicting the result and score of the Illinois game on Saturday.

That's Ridiculous
1) Lady's Weave Saved Her Life - Refer to the this link. I like the following quote: "I invested a lot of money in that weave and it saved my life."

Tomorrow - Iowa Preview #2

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Michigan State Outlasts Wisconsin 61-50

So, I have to be honest, I didn't see us coming back in this game. Halfway through the second half, I could help but think to myself "Michigan State does this every year." We choke. We don't live up to expectations. We give up two game leads in the Big Ten with only 6 games remaining.

As you know, however, we didn't choke against Wisconsin. Due to a combination of good Spartan defense and a long Badger offensive drought, we were able to rally after being down 12 with 12 minutes left and win convincingly by 11.

Player of the Game: Goran Suton 16 points and 10 rebounds

What Went Well for the Spartans
1) Points in the Paint - We dominated this area of the game with a 32-16 advantage. Goran Suton led the way with 16 points, but I thought Delvon Roe looked very impressive. Roe played strong down low and gave us good looks at the basket. He would have even had a bigger impact if he could hit his free throws.
2) Shooting - Michigan State finished shooting over 47%. Their 52% second half was very impressive and reflects their emphasis in getting the ball down low. It should be pointed out that we finished 2-9 from the three-point line, but the two makes could not have been bigger. How many of you out there wanted Allen to chuck up that three at the end? I have a world of confidence in his shooting ability and I still cringed.
3) Defense - Contrary to our Wisconsin emailer below, I think the difference in this game was when we decided to go to playing full court defense. For some reason, this seemed to fluster Wisconsin and even produced a few turnovers on their part. Normally, our "press" doesn't do anything to our opponents since essentially we just shadow their players up the court with very little pressure. In this game, however, it worked. In the future, I hope Izzo lets our athletes play all out, Chris Kramer style.
4) Crowd - If we could only have the 1979 team in the house every day. Maybe it was them, or maybe it was just because we were playing Wisconsin, but the Izzone was feeling it. They should be that loud every game no matter who we are playing.

What Didn't Go Well for Michigan State
1) Turnovers - When people think of Tom Izzo led teams, I think people should associate the words "turnover prone" just as quickly as they do "good rebounding." I don't know what the answer is on this. I think that Lucas has good ball handling ability, but even he still turns it over. Some of it may be our structured offense and its lack of creativity.
2)Tom Herzog Starting - This is ridiculous. You can't start a guy against Wisconsin because he plays hard and didn't get in against Purdue during a blowout. I like Izzo's loyalty, but geez, mix Herzog in at an opportune time during the game. Not at the start of the game against our biggest rival and in front of the 1979 team. Tom, you do know that Herzog is in the Honor's College don't you?
3) Durrell Summers - He finished with 5 points and one rebound in 24 minutes. Once again, we need more from him. I'll spare Chris Allen just because he had that dagger at the end. He didn't play very well either.

While it is nice to see that the sky is not falling, I take little comfort in this win. We were a few Wisconsin baskets away from seeing our Big Ten championship go down the drain. Looking forward, we have to find a way to take care of the ball and how to score effectively. Our defense is solid, but it can only do so much unless we find ways to put the ball in the hoop.

Other Game Notes
1) Lucas Steal and Lay-up Familiar? - Was the Kalin Lucas steal and subsequent lay-up with 25 seconds left very similar to the Alando Tucker dunk back in 2003? Like Tucker's team, the Spartans were up by nine and the victory was sealed. Shouldn't Lucas have pulled the ball out and ran the clock out? I personally would have thrown it down myself, but I also wouldn't have bitched about Tucker's dunk.
2) Lucas Had Rare Dunk - I probably have overlooked it, but I can't remember Lucas every slamming one home before this game. It happened early in the second half. It was a simple one handed jam on a break.
3) Sutton Reamed for Shooting a Three - Did you see Izzo sit him down in the second half and get right in his face. I could read his lips and he said, "No threes. You need to get your ass inside." While I agree with him needing to be a force down low, you can't give him the green light to shoot from the perimeter all season long and then pull him out when he doesn't convert from distance.
4) Krabbenhoft Gettin' Cute - I loved seeing the bounce it off the guy on the inbounds play not work.

"I thought it was going to be our day when I started Herzog, and I did that because I didn't put him in at Purdue when I put everyone else in. The kid has worked so hard, and has been in here everyday so I apologized to him and told him I was going to start him the next game."
--Tom Izzo

So Coach, you are telling me that because he didn't get to play one minute in Purdue like all of the other scrubs, he gets to start and play three minutes against the badgers? That doesn't make any sense. If you told me that you liked the way he played in the Big Ten Tournament last year against Wisconsin, I would have given you a break. If you remember, everyone got in foul trouble forcing Izzo to go to Herzog. He played great then. Well, considering.....

"Goran has to bring it every minute of every game and as happy as I am for him, don't think he's off the hook. He has skills and abilities to do a lot of things, and so how I am going to get that out of him in the next three weeks because that kid could be a very good player."
--Tom Izzo

It's a run-on sentence, but I like it. Feed the big man. Tell him to stop labeling other teams as being dirty.

"Jud looks like he needs a whiskey on the rocks."
--My wife in reference to a shot of Jud sitting in his suite.

He probably was pissed that he had to watch this game.


I am Wisconsin fan and I can appreciate what Michigan State's success on the national stage has done for the Big Ten. I also respect the athleticism of State's players year after year. Most of the aspects of the Spartan program that I respect. However, I have no respect for how Tom Izzo acts on the sideline. Bo does his share of lobbying the officials, but he recognizes when a legitimate foul was called against his team. By the way Izzo reacts, you would think that his team never fouls (which makes you wonder why else he recruited Al Anagonye). It's just childish and disrespectful to the game. Also, obviously Wisconsin didn't quite have it today and didn't seem to think they needed to score in the second half to win, but it's too bad the momentum changing play of the game came after a no-call on a double dribble by Suton.

Kirke, Somewhere in Wisconsin

First of all, thanks for visiting the blog. Let me respond to this with a few different points.
1) It's classy to recognize Michigan State's accomplishments on a national level. Unfortunately, they haven't translated to success in the Big Ten in recent years. Wisconsin takes that honor, even with less touted players.
2) Most realistic Michigan State fans recognize Izzo as a whiner. In fact, I just told a buddy today that Izzo is the kind of coach that you love to have (yeah, even I appreciate Izzo), but if he is on another team, you hate him. His red-ass face and flailing arms even annoy me and I'm one of the biggest MSU fans around. But, I have to say, most of the time, I agree with him on the calls he is arguing. I don't think that he acts like that just because he wants to. For instance, today, I found him getting upset numerous times at the refs, not for the actual fouls that they called, but when they called them. There were a few obvious fouls where it seemed like the officials half-swallowed their whistles making me think they were going to let it go, but then only to finally call the foul. That really pissed me and Izzo off.
3) Most Spartans wish we still had Al Anagonye. Ever since he left, we have lacked toughness.
4) I know what play you are talking about with Suton, but I disagree with you on a couple of points. First of all, I don't think that it was the momentum changer. As I mentioned above, I thought it was the full court press. You could also argue it was Wisconsin's inability to hit shots. Secondly, I think that the ball was actually hit out of Suton's hands allowing him to take another dribble before putting the shot up. I thought it looked funny initially, but on the replay, that's how it appeared to me. I did not hear what the announcers had to say about it.

Tomorrow - I'll try to get to some quick hits, but it may have to wait until Tuesday.

Wisconsin Preview

The Spartans look to bounce back into the win column today as they take on Wisconsin in the Breslin Center. Many argue that Wisconsin is our biggest conference rival, but it is hard to call it a rivalry since we have lost 11 of our last 14 against them. Michigan State has had success lately, however, having won their last three matchups in East Lansing.

Wisconsin (17-9 Overall, 8-6 in the Big Ten)

Why Wisconsin Could Win
1) Ball Handling - The Badgers are currently fourth in the country in regards to turnovers averaging only 9 per game within the conference. Only Northwestern has a better turnover margin at +5 within the Big Ten, while Wisconsin is +2. If they can get Michigan State to play sloppy, it will be an easy Wisconsin victory.
2) Rebounding - Wisconsin is second behind the Spartans in rebounding. Like Purdue, they are especially good at limiting offensive rebounds. This will be key as Michigan State's best offense so far this year has been an offensive rebound.
3) Balanced Attack - Unlike Big Ten team we have faced so far this year, Wisconsin is extremely balanced. They rank within the top 5 in three-quarters of all team stats. They are second in scoring defense, turnover margin, free throws, rebounding margin, third in FG%, and assist-to-turnover ratio and fourth in scoring offense, and 3-pt % defense. Surprisingly, this Wisconsin team doesn't get many steals or block very many shots.
4) Bo Ryan - This guy has owned Michigan State since coming to the conference. He is 11-3 against the Spartans with all three losses occurring at the Breslin Center. Although I am unable to pinpoint why he is so successful against us, he obviously knows something that Izzo doesn't. You don't have less talented teams and consistently beat Michigan State without being a good coach. Refer to this article by the Daily Gopher illustrating how Bo Ryan has done more with less over the past 10 years than any other coach in the conference. Would you believe that he has only had 11 top 100 recruits since 1998? Five of these guys are on this year's team! That is amazing.

My Keys to a Spartan Victory
1) Run an Effective Offense - In the last two games, we have tried to establish an inside presence early. We had success against Michigan, but our guards were not able to effectively feed the post against Purdue. Hopefully, we have worked on this since then. In order to win, I we must outscore Wisconsin in the paint. We can't rely on outside shooting to carry us. That includes shots one foot within the three-point line.
2) Limit Turnovers - This should probably be priority number one. If we turn the ball over, we are going to lose, especially knowing how good Wisconsin takes care of the rock. Hopefully, we have gotten the turnover bug out of our systems.
3) X-Factor(s) - We need Durrell Summers or Chris Allen to step up. End of story.
4) Free Throws - Like all Wisconsin/MSU games, I am expecting a lot of fouling. Wisconsin shoots a high percentage from the line so we will have to convert a high percentage of our own shots to win.
5) Bounce Back - The Spartans have rebounded from their four losses brilliantly so far this year. In those games, the Spartans are averaging 80 points per game and only giving up 69. Durrell Summers is also averaging 15.5 points in games after a loss.

That's Ridiculous
1) Tom Izzo Whining - I hate to do this to my own team, but today's article in the Free Press (here) is extremely untimely. While I appreciate the insight on the rivalry between both Michigan State and Wisconsin and between the coaches, the timing and manner of which he did it, was inappropriate. In the article, Izzo confirms what many already perceive about him already; that he is a whiner. His quotes are laced with the emotion of an eight-year old who just can't stand the fact that another coach in the conference seems to have his number. Here are all of Tom Izzo's quotes from the article:

  • "It really started with the dunk in the last 10 seconds of a game -- when you see every other Big Ten team holds it up and that didn't happen, that ticked me off. I said something about it, so that made every Wisconsin fan mad at me and every Michigan State fan mad at him. I brought it up and he acted like it was no big deal. Well, you know what? I didn't like that and I may not for the rest of my life.

  • "I don't want you to make a big deal about it, but he never ever said a word about it. Even when people said, 'Did he call and apologize? Did he do this and that?' No. Well ... we didn't do that when we beat them nine times in a row or 11 times in a row. And you know what? He beat us in the one Big Ten championship year, and that hurts, but we got Wisconsin in the Final Four and that was for a national championship."

  • "It bothers me, but I don't play the game. Do I sit there and say it doesn't bother me? No, of course it bothers me. But all it makes me do is work to do what I can do better and try to prepare them better, and eventually the players play the game.
  • "We're not hanging out, but I'm not enemies with Bo. We're on a board together, and I get along with Bo."

I remember the dunk in 2003, and personally, I think it was blown way out of proportion. Like most of the subsequent matchups, the bigger story was how we were favored to win and lost. I believe that Alando Tucker's dunk on that day rattled us, and by the statements that Izzo made just yesterday, we apparently still haven't recovered from it. Instead of approaching this as just another game, Michigan State has put too much emphasis on beating the Badgers and has since lost 11 of their last 14 against them. Since that day, In order for this trend to change, we need to forget about the past and play in the now.
2) Unfurled 2004 Big Ten Banner Happened Before - Everyone knows about the incident, but most are unaware that this had happened before. In 1998, I was in the Izzone on Senior night as we played Purdue in the final game of the regular season. The Spartans had already clinched a share of the Big Ten title with Illinois, so someone had the brilliant idea to hang the banner before the game. The result was Purdue upsetting us in overtime and we lost the outright title. Those who ignore history are condemned to repeat it.
3) "Why Does Bo Ryan Suck So Much?" - During an informal Q&A session during the Big Ten Tournament pep rally in Indianapolis last year, some guy asked Tom Izzo this question in front of approximately 500 alumni. Izzo respectfully declined to answer it. That would have been a better time to tell us all about our hatred of Wisconsin instead of the day of a game.

It's hard to predict a game after a loss. For some reason, when we lose, it always feels like the sky is falling. Today, Michigan State has all the motivation that it needs to perform well. They will want to play well for the 1979 championship team that will be in attendance and they want to stay one game up on Purdue for the conference championship. I'm sure that they want to win one for their coach also, but again, this should be the last thing on their mind.

Wisconsin is not as talented as Michigan State. The Spartans have the personnel to dictate a faster tempo, dominate on the offensive glass, and force the Badgers into poor shots. The difference will be on the sidelines and which coach will call a better game. While Bo Ryan doesn't have the horses that Michigan State does, it hasn't ever stopped him in the past.

My head says that momentum will get the best of the Spartans, but my heart says that they will not let this Big Ten Championship slip through their fingers, especially in front of Magic and company.

Michigan State over Wisconsin 63-60

Pregame Quotes
"I don't like Wisconsin. That's no secret. I don't think they like us, either. They're dirty, they push, they hold. Actually, I like Michigan more than I like them. That's pretty bad."
--Goran Suton

Again, just play the game G. We push. We hold. "It's the Big [Ten]. This ain't intramurals!"

Tomorrow - Wisconsin Post Game

Saturday, February 21, 2009

While I Was Gone.......

Michigan State Notes While I Was Gone
1) Michigan State is Joaquin Phoenix - A must read by former Bigtenwonk author Jon Gasaway who now writes for Basketball Prospectus. He essentially says the same things about the offense I have been saying for weeks, but much more eloquently and with statistics to back it up. Hightlights include:

  • The Big Ten is balanced, but lacks really good teams
  • He believes that Oklahoma is similar to MSU in that they lack a big win.
  • He points out how offensive rebounding is what drives Michigan State's offense and how in March we will run into teams that will be able to take this away. He says we better have a good Plan B.
  • Compares us to Stanford and Villanova of last year who made it to the Sweet 16 despite poor offenses. I guess it would have been too easy to compare us to our own team from one year ago

2) Goran Suton Says Wisconsin "Plays Dirty" - Suton went into all sorts of details, but most importantly, he is annoyed by Marcus Landry's continual holding of his opponent's off-arm during jump balls. G, there is only one jump ball per game in college basketball! I don't really care for this comment before our matchup on Sunday. Why give them anything that could be motivating? Under Bo Ryan, they have already owned us. You can find the quote in Joe Rexrode's blog along with a complete recap of last year's Big Ten Tournament loss to the Badgers here.
3) Izzo is Looking For More From Lucas - This Detroit News article explains how Izzo wants Lucas to be more aggressive as the postseason is approaching. What I like about the article is that they imply that they are working on isolation sets for Kalin against high pressure defense. I thought that this was missing against Purdue. If opponents want to play high-pressure defense, we need to be able to beat them off the dribble and make them pay.
4) Izzo May Shorten His Bench - He states that while he has limited the minutes of certain players, he has not limited the number of players that have seen the floor in each game. With Morgan getting healthier, he wants to limit the rotation a little bit. As you know, I am thrilled by this news. You can find the link here.

That's Ridiculous (The Catch Up Edition)
1) Chimpanzee Mauling - I'm not as concerned about the mauling itself per se, but more about the "unusual bond" shared between the animal and the owner. A few days after the attack, experts say that this bond may have been a factor in the surprising attack. They say that the owner, Sandra Harold, cuddled in bed with the chimpanzee, drank wine together, and even bathed together. Bathed together??? Michael Jackson and Bubbles think that you are ridiculous.
2) Penn State Beats Illinois 38-33 - Yeah, that is a basketball score. Not a recap of last fall's matchup on the gridiron. That score was 38-24 in case you wondering. This matchup on the hardwood reminded me of us at Iowa last year. Like the Spartans, Illinois shot the ball better than Penn State, but still lost. Also like Michigan State, Illinois' opponent won the game because of a lopsided difference in free throws. Penn State finished 9-11 from the line, but Illinois didn't get to the stripe even once. Games like this one is why people across the country can't stand the Big Ten.
3) A-Rod Didn't Exactly Tell the Truth - It turns out that there are some flaws in his revelation that he took performance enhancing drugs. He may have received them from a banned trainer in the Dominican and not from his cousin. What's worse, A-rod not telling the truth or the continual coverage of this story?
4) Joy Behar vs. Ann Coulter on Larry King - This is just wrong on all sorts of levels. Number one, why is Joy Behar subbing for Larry King? Is that the best that CNN could come up with? That annoying lady from The View? Was Rosie O'Donnell not available? Secondly, what was I doing watching it? These two easily crack my personal top 10 list of women I can't stand. (In case you are wondering, Danica Patrick is the undisputed number one). Anyways, I just happened to be at work and found it as I was flipping through the channels. It was pretty funny to see Behar trying to go toe-to-toe with the Ice Queen Coulter. Joy was outmatched in both communication skills and overall knowledge. Her interview went about as well as I would do if I sat down with Tom Izzo and argued with him on the same points I put up on this blog. You can see the entire exchange here.

Tomorrow - Wisconsin Preview

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Brad Van Pelt Passes Away

Yesterday Michigan State lost one of their greatest football players of all time as Brad Van Pelt was found dead in his home. Not only was he a true Spartan great, he was from my hometown of Owosso, Michigan. Having grown up there, I know what he meant to that city, especially if you are over the age of 40. Hell, most people in the town would say that he was the most famous person from there despite it being the birthplace of Thomas Dewey. I'm too young to have seen him play, but I went to high school with two of his sons and had a few gym teachers that were high school buddies of his. I always thought that it was funny when they told old war stories about them being with Brad and tearing up the town. After hearing so many stories about BVP, you tended to think that the legend was bigger than the player. But, those who saw him play argue otherwise even to this day.

Some of his accomplishments include:

  • 2 Time All-American
  • 1972 Maxwell Award Winner (first defensive back to win)
  • 1972 Chevrolet Defensive Player of the Year
  • Played basketball and baseball for Michigan State also.
  • Was drafted to play baseball for the St. Louis Cardinals.
  • Was selected to the NFL Pro Bowl five times
  • Was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2001

I wasn't around during Brad Van Pelt's glory days, but I've heard so many legendary stories that I feel like I was. I think anyone that has any ties to Owosso probably feels the same way. In many ways, BVP was the identity of this town. Having accomplished everything he did coming from such a small community is truly amazing. For the people of Owosso, his death is the equivalent of French Lick losing Larry Bird. We were all fortunate enough to have been influenced by his legacy and we will likely never see an athlete like him again.

Brad Van Pelt Related Links
1) The New York Times - Nice, long story. LT is quoted as saying that BVP was "One of the greatest players I ever played with. I not only liked him as a player but he was one of my true friends."
3) The Detroit Free Press
4) The Lansing State Journal

Friday - Back to MSU basketball. I'm taking more time to get over the Purdue loss.