Prepping for Madness
Indiana was impressive. The Hoosiers remind of the Hoosiers of yesteryear-lots of great shooters and a superstar. Although I think this Hoosiers team has two superstars-Cody Zeller AND Victor Oladipo. That kid was unbelievable last night. Now, the Hoosiers have won both games against the Spartans this season. Which leaves them potentially playing each other one or more times still this season-in the Big Ten Tournament and possibly in the NCAA tournament.
Tom Izzo has a very young team. This was supposedly a "rebuilding" year for the Spartans. Thats why I love Izzo's teams. Only in a Michigan State rebuilding year could MSU be sitting as #4 in the rankings, taking the #1 team in the country to the buzzer. But this is what Michigan State does year in and year out. They challenge themselves-they play tough teams all season long start to finish, and most years they start peaking a few weeks prior to March Madness.
MSU has played really well all season long. A 22-5 record, 11-3 in the Big Ten is certainly nothing to sneeze at. But I was not crushed by the loss last night. Spartan stars Keith Appling and Brendan Dawson did not play well. While Adreian Payne and Gary Harris both stepped up, Appling and Dawson need to shoot well and stay poised throughout every game for MSU to win. Freshman Denzel Valentine played 27 minutes last night, several minutes above his season average. On top of that, Travis Trice returned last night after missing the last 5 games with a broken nose and concussion like symptoms.
The fact that MSU was in the game, even winning with just over a minute to go, is encouraging. And when push comes to shove, it was a big game, but not the biggest of the season. March Madness it when it really counts. And MSU is in, with a good seed. Coach Izzo gave his freshman extra minutes, and can take Dawson and Appling and provide them with some invaluable "teaching moments" following this Indiana loss. Payne was outstanding and young Gary Harris can practice some free throws before we enter into March.
MSU has some big games still ahead of them-Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin, and ending at the always challenging Northwestern Wildcats before they head to the Big Ten Tournament in Chicago. Big games. Good experience. Best coaching in college basketball. A young team gaining confidence and experience. It's going to be fun watching these Spartans the next few weeks. They are just getting for Madness!