Sunday, March 18, 2012

Survive and advance: Michigan State 65, Saint Louis 61

I'm watching the end of the Purdue/Kansas game and rooting on the Boilers.  They've outplayed the Jayhawks and deserve to win this one.  I hope they can hang on. (After leading the entire game, the Boilermakers couldn't hang on and lost to Kansas, 63-60. Coach Painter and the Boilers appeared to lose their heads a bit in the last minute and fell apart. Robbie Hummel, a kid for whom I have tremendous respect, played his heart out. Purdue's loss was a major bummer--but still great that 25% of the Sweet Sixteen is from the Big Ten.).

What an ugly game played today between MSU and Saint Louis.  The Billikens make Wisconsin look like the "Showtime" Los Angeles Lakers.  Saint Louis was methodical, plodding, and defensive-minded, with a style of play that could charitably be called "extremely physical".  In short, it was not a fun game to watch.  The last 40 seconds of the game were particularly excruciating, but thankfully the Spartans managed to hang on for the victory.

It's a testament to how great Tom Izzo is as a coach that MSU, in the space of two days, was able to go from the "track meet" style of LIU hoops to the slog-it-out sludge of Saint Louis.  It's that type of flexibility that has allowed MSU basketball to be so successful throughout Izzo's tenure.

And even though Saint Louis' style was hard on the eyes, credit is due to Rick Majerus.  That guy is able to wring every last drop out of whatever minimal amout of talent he has.  The Billikens may not have the best players, but they certainly play hard.

My drink of choice for this particular MSU game, as I know you're all dying to know, was one bottle of Blue Moon consumed during the second half.  A few f-bombs were hurled as well.  Certainly the expletives shouted by yours truly in this game far exceeded those in Friday's LIU game.  Now, I need to get the blood pressure down for a few days in preparation for MSU's Sweet Sixteen game against Louisville on Thursday night.

It's nice to see that with these two tournament victories, MSU has evened its all-time record against both LIU and Saint Louis.  The Spartans are now 2-2 against LIU and 1-1 against Saint Louis.

So the Louisville Cardinals are MSU's next opponent. Louisville was a middle of the pack Big East team, but have been playing extremely well as of late.  They've won six straight with two impressive victories over ranked teams: 84-71 over Marquette and a 64-50 decision against Notre Dame.  Unlike some of the run-and-gun Louisville teams of the past, this one wins with defense and a full-court press (which has been Pitino's signature throughout his coaching career) that wears out many opponents. The Cardinals are led by speedy point guard Peyton Siva, and also have a somewhat flaky guard from New York named Russ Smith who has, shall we say, a complicated relationship with coach Rick Pitino.  Here's an interesting article about Louisville that appeared in today's New York Times.

I don't know if I'll be posting anything on this blog until Thursday, but we'll see.  In any case, lets all get some rest for a few days and I'll see you again on Thursday, March 22.  I'm now gonna unwind with the last three minutes of a hotly contested game between Cincinnati and Florida State.

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