Sunday, March 11, 2012

Undisputed Big Ten Champions: Michigan State Spartans

Once again, I'm at a loss of words as to where to start this post--so I'll just get to it.

I'm continually amazed at the sheer number of huge games and momentous victories that Michigan State has had under Tom Izzo.  At this point, there have to be at least a couple dozen games that one could look at individually and say, "That was an incredible win!"  Now, just add today's Big Ten Tournament-winning game against Ohio State to that luminous list.

First of all, it was one of the most exciting college basketball games I have ever seen...period.  The only other MSU game I can think of that comes close in terms of sheer drama is the 2009 Final Four game against UConn.  This game between the Spartans and Buckeyes was like watching Ali and Frazier go at it.  Two extremely tough and talented basketball teams delivering non-stop body blows, with the Spartans finally coming out on top.

Did anyone, outside of the MSU team themselves, expect the Spartans to play so well without Branden Dawson?  These guys just went out and played perhaps their best basketball of the entire season, at a time when it was the probably the least expected--certainly by knuckleheads like me.

How about Brandon Wood?  He played a terrible game against Indiana about a week-and-a-half ago, and has followed it up with three straight good-to-excellent games, with none better than today's 21 point performance.

I'm thrilled for Austin Thornton, who has been brilliant in in the last few weeks.  His three-point barrage against Wisconsin got the Spartans back in that game, and he did the little things today that don't make the stat sheet.

And then there's Draymond Green.  I think I've used up every adjective in the dictionary for this guy.  He didn't have one of his best games today, but that 3-point shot late in the game was the "YEEESSSSS!!!!" moment of the day.

Could there have been a more perfect storybook ending to the regular season?  It's amazing to think that exactly one week ago I was depressed over MSU's two-point loss to Ohio State, and now I am jubilant over this remarkable MSU Big Ten tournament run capped off with a redemptive win over the Buckeyes.  And it is so sweet to end Ohio State's run of two straight Big Ten Tournament championships, and for MSU to get their first tournament crown since 2000...and speaking of 2000, we all remember how MSU's season ended that year?  Pretty decent conclusion to that year, if memory serves me well.

I just can't get over what an amazing season it has been for the Spartan basketball team.  I'm a little disappointed that I never made it to Breslin for any of MSU's Big Ten games, but I'm happy that I was able to see them a few times in person during their non-conference gestation period.  Even then, I could see that this team had potential, certainly enough raw material to finish in the top half of the Big Ten and get into the tournament, but I never would have predicted a Big Ten regular season title AND a Big Ten tournament title.  Just add this remarkable season to Tom Izzo's incredible resume.

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