I had the good fortune and immense pleasure of attending last night's tremendously exciting MSU basketball victory over Louisville. It was the most electric atmosphere I've seen at Breslin since the Spartans' 75-52 in over Michigan on February 13, 2013. The crowd was fully engaged. Part of that has to do with the terrific start this team has had, but another part I'm sure has to do with what a tremendous mood the football team has created. In fact, some of the loudest applause of the night occurred when Connor Cook was shown on camera (he was in attendance) and when highlights clips were played on the scoreboard of Jalen Watts-Jackson's game-winning fumble return against Michigan and Michael Geiger's field goal that beat Ohio State.
The Lousville Cardinals are much better than their #24 ranking. They have tremendous quickness and length. (By the way, is "length" the most overused and annoying basketball term? Let's just say Louisville's players are "frickin' tall"). Like the best Rick Pitino teams, they play a suffocating zone defense and an equally lethal press. If this team doesn't at least make the Sweet Sixteen this season, I'd be surprised. Look for them to cause some havoc in the ACC.
I've given up trying to think of more superlatives to describe the play of Denzel Valentine. The young man has been incredible this season, and made six crucial free throws in the final minutes of the game to seal the win. He makes everyone around him better, and he and Byrn Forbes make the best tandem we may have seen around here since Earvin Johnson and Gregory Kelser. Is that a stretch to say that? I have been know for hyperbole, but I have to say that Valentine and Forbes have an almost telepathic communication that I've not seen since those guys. (Well, come to think of it, Mateen Cleaves and Morris Peterson seemed to be able to communicate telepathically, as well).
Who, prior to this game, would have ever guessed that Kenny Goins would play 18 minutes and have 13 rebounds? On a night when Matt Costello and Javon Bess struggled, Goins stepped up big to battle Louisville's big men.
Thoroughly excited after the game, I stayed up to watch some of the late Big Ten/ACC Challenge games. Duke was on its way to blowing out Indiana, so I changed the channel to Illinois and Notre Dame, but it was quite clear that Notre Dame was about to win. Finally, I settled on the exciting finish of the Iowa/Florida State game. I surprised myself at how much I wanted the Big Ten to win this challenge, and was quite loudly and vocally rooting for the Hawkeyes and succeeded in keeping certain members of my family awake.