Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011: a great year for Michigan State sports

First of all, I intended on doing a "live blog" of sorts during the Spartans' basketball game against Indiana, but due to technical difficulties with our new laptop, that didn't happen.  I'll just sum up my feelings by saying that was one of the wildest roller coaster rides of a basketball game I've ever seen, but what a great win for MSU.  One can't help but be optimistic about the future of this team, particularly considering how well Keith Appling and Derrick Nix played.  There may still be an occasional bump in the road, but this team should only get better as the season progresses.

Now onto the year that was for MSU sports.  It was a good year and the athletic department seems to have the most solidly constructed foundation I've witnessed in my lifetime.  For once, the university has a president, Lou Anna Simon, who understands the importance (rightly or wrongly) of intercollegiate athletics at a Big Ten university, a visionary athletic director (Mark Hollis) who from all outward appearances has a great relationship with the university president, the board of trustees, and all the coaches who work under him.  This has to be the best collection of coaches I've ever seen at Michigan State, and I've been following MSU sports since the mid-1970s.  Obviously, Tom Izzo is the coaching face of MSU, but others such as Mark Dantonio, Suzy Merchant, Jake Boss Jr., and newcomer Tom Anastos have enjoyed great success in  the last few years.  (This, of course, is Anastos' first year, but the hockey program seems rejuvenated under his leadership).

2011 got off to a rough start for the Spartans, with the football team's embarrassing loss to Alabama in the Capital One Bowl.  Matters didn't improve much with the frustrating season the men's basketball team had, but the women's team won the Big Ten title, and in the spring Jake Boss, Jr. led the baseball team to its first conference title since 1979. (I took my two sons to see a weekend day game against Northwestern after the Spartans had clinched the Big Ten title, and though the Spartans lost, it was a great time--and McLane Stadium is a jewel).  The year was topped off in splendid fashion with the football team winning the inaugural Legends Division title--coming within a whisker of winning a second consecutive Big Ten title--and the great start by the men's basketball team.

As I finish writing this, the MSU basketball team won a tough one at Nebraska to close out the 2011 calendar year for Spartan sports.  It was one of those Big Ten road games against an undermanned but determined opponent that good teams just have to slug their way through, and that's just what the Spartans did.  MSU made just enough good plays down the stretch, and Keith Appling knocked down some clutch free throws.

It's a great time to be a Spartan fan, and plenty of reason for great optimism has we head into 2012,

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