It wasn't a "school night" last night, so I was able to stay up late and watch the Spartans defeat Ohio State 76-67 in MSU's first game of the 2015 Big Ten Tournament.
MSU is a better team now than they were when I saw them slip past the Buckeyes at Breslin on Valentine's Day. Players like Lourawls Nairn, Marvin Clark, and Alvin Ellis look like they've figured it out and are making major contributions to the team. Meanwhile, Denzel Valentine, Travis Trice, Branden Dawson, and Matt Costello are putting forth much more consistently good efforts.
The only remaining deficiency remains free throw shooting. It just is not improving enough. Last night, the Spartans saw a 17-point lead whittle down to 5 due in part to poor shooting in one-and-one situations at the charity stripe. In fairness though, MSU played well enough defensively and scored just enough to come away with a double-digit win.
Now is a chance for retribution against Maryland. I don't know if MSU will win, but I fully expect them to play with passion and fury. They know they let the game against the Terps at Breslin slip away.
This Spartan team has improved since they played Maryland in late December and January. For one thing, Nairn has developed into a great defender with outstanding quickness, and I suspect he will get a healthy dose of Melo Trimble today. Nairn defended the Buckeyes' D'Angelo Russell extremely well, and Russell along with Trimble is one of the best guards in the conference.
United Center in Chicago sounded like "Breslin West" last night, with MSU fans easily drowning out Ohio State supporters. It should be even more pronounced today. I can't see that many Terps fans making the trip to Chicago, so the Spartans should have a friendly home floor atmosphere.