The Payneless Spartans keep rolling along.
This week, they beat Northwestern in a practically unwatchable game in Evanston. In a contest that featured enough bricks to construct a new building on Northwestern's campus, the Spartans prevailed 54-40. Last night, in a game that wasn't nearly as hard on the eyes, the Spartans pounded the reeling Illinois Fighting Illini, 78-62. In true testament to how well MSU played, yours truly hurled nary one F-bomb throughout the entire game. Maybe only one or two "shits" was uttered in total.
As Graham Couch correctly pointed out in today's Lansing State Journal--as if you need an amateur blogger like me to affirm the insight and wisdom of a professional sportswriter--having Payne out of the lineup may actually be, in a strange way, a blessing in disguise for Michigan State. It has forced other players (namely Matt Costello, Branden Dawson, Alex Gauna, and Gavin Schilling) to both get more playing time and step up their play to make up for Payne's absence. In the long run, it may have the same impact as the 1999-2000 season, when Mateen Cleaves missed the entire non-conference schedule. In the NCAA championship game against Florida, when Cleaves was temporarily knocked out of the game after the infamous Teddy Dupay incident, the Spartans didn't panic and didn't miss a beat. Their poise was a direct result of to not having Cleaves for so long earlier in the season.
Eventually, MSU will get Payne back in the rotation, but the time he has been out may have helped make this team stronger.
In other Big Ten hoops news, Michigan dominated Wisconsin at the Kohl Center. The Wolverines thoroughly outplayed the Badgers throughout most of the game and were able to withstand a furious comeback attempt late in the game. Suddenly, Michigan looks like a player in the Big Ten championship race even without Mitch McGary. Michigan's match-up against Iowa has taken on new meaning, as has the impending showdown with MSU next weekend.
To my loyal one or two readers, look out for my Spartan football wrap up. I'm sure you're dying to read it. I hope to finally post it soon--at least before the 2014 football season begins.
Until then, stay Green my friends.