I went to the MSU/Wisconsin basketball game on Thursday night and, though watching the Badgers' "style" of basketball--and I use the term basketball loosely when describing the way Wisconsin drags the game back to the peach basket era--I enjoyed myself. There is nothing like experiencing college basketball in a live setting, particularly at Breslin. Though the students are currently on spring break, the "alumni Izzone" brought the noise and it was a great atmosphere (even if nothing compared to the frenzy of the Michigan game--nothing could top that).
I was pleased with Spartans' performance on Thursday night. Keith Appling, as I expected, broke out of his funk and the whole team really put it together. Adreian Payne had one of his best games of the year. Travis Trice was outstanding, Denzel Valentine made some outstanding passes, and the Spartans got it done. Conversely, the Badgers looked horrible. I don't know how much of that was due to MSU's defense, or the aftershock of Purdue pummeling the Badgers at Kohl Center last week. Wisconsin couldn't hit the broad side of a barn and seemed to pass the ball the guys in green-and-white more often than the players in red. Oh, and a note to Bo Ryan: you may want to recruit better athletes. As well as Wisconsin players adapt to Bo's system and execute it well, at some point the team's lack of athleticism is exposed by better opponents.
After struggling against Bo Ryan when Bo first entered the conference, Tom Izzo's teams have now won five straight over Wisconsin. Maybe that is due to MSU simply having better teams than Bo, but at least some of it might be a case of Tom figuring out how to play against Bo's ugly style of hoops. The keys seem to be a) patience on the defensive end, knowing that Wisconsin likes to use the entire shot clock and b) disrupting passing lanes and being active with your hands to force turnovers thereby helping to create fast break opportunities. The one thing Wisconsin doesn't like to do is run. (One of the most interesting stats from the game was 15 fast break points for Michigan State and--unsurprisingly-zero for Wisconsin).
It occurs to me that I never intended this blog to be a platform for me to wow anyone with my x's and o's expertise, since I don't have an illusions of being a sports expert. So if anyone out there with any real basketball knowledge is reading this and things I'm full of crap, please don't hesitate to let me know.
On the Lansing-area sports talk shows this past week, one of the major topics of discussion was whether or not MSU fans should root for Michigan to beat Indiana on Sunday. A Wolverine win over the Hoosiers would guarantee the Spartans a share of the Big Ten title, though that means Michigan would ALSO be a co-champion. The way I see it, I root for Michigan State first and foremost and try not to concern myself with what Michigan does. How can any self-respecting MSU fan NOT want the Spartans to win another banner to hang from the rafters at Breslin? It's not a matter of "rooting for Michigan" but "rooting against Indiana."
(I'm being summoned for domestic duty, so I shall try and finish this later).