Sunday, March 29, 2015

A most improbable Final Four

I can't remember being this happily stunned in my almost four decades as a Michigan State sports fan. Who would have ever guessed that this team would end up in the Final Four?
This is a team that lost at home to Texas Southern (which I suppose isn't such a bad loss in retrospect since Texas Southern rolled to a conference title and NCAA tournament berth), blew a lead and lost its Big Ten home opener to Maryland, and for the remaining 3/4 of the conference season was up-and-down, at various times making the fans and media wonder aloud if Izzo's NCAA tournament streak would end at 17.
To this team's credit, they improved, they fought, they scratched, they believed in themselves. The Spartans demonstrated an inner resolve in the last few conference games and finished alone in 3rd place in the standings. After a loss to Wisconsin in Madison on March 1 concluded an 0-2 week (which included an ugly loss to Minnesota at Breslin), a switch turned on. Since the regular season loss to Wisconsin, Michigan State has won eight of its last nine games. 
Then they rolled in the Big Ten tournament before losing a heartbreaker against Wisconsin in the championship. It was a game that the Spartans should have won, but let slip away.
By now, we should know better than to EVER doubt Tom Izzo's ability to mold and motivate a team.
I don't know what will happen from this point. The Spartans have been playing with house money since at least the round of 32 game against Virginia. Duke, the next opponent, has been the constant immovable object in MSU's way. Certainly, few will expect the Spartans to win, but for that reason they should play with no fears or worries.

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