Saturday, March 14, 2015

Maryland, from this fan's perspective

Since the subtitle of this blog states it's from a "fan's perspective," it behooves me to give this fan's perspective of the Maryland game.

This is Maryland's first year in the Big Ten, and there is a shallow dark part of me that resents how successful they've been in their first season and that they've beaten MSU twice this season. A third loss would be a disappointment.

So long, Ohio State...bring on Maryland

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.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Spartans (and yours truly) survive another heart attack special

Yesterday, I was bound and determined to casually watch Michigan State's final regular season basketball game. Nothing would bother me. I wouldn't get irritable or angry or emotional. Whatever happened would be perfectly fine. It wouldn't matter to me in the least. MSU already had 20 regular seasons in the bag and at least 11 conference wins. Anything else: gravy.

What's that expression about "The best laid plans of mice and men?"

With two minutes remaining, MSU had an 8-point lead over Indiana. But as has been the case all season, the Spartans have a maddening ability to make the final few minutes of almost any game way too interesting. The Spartans missed seven of 14 free throws down the stretch. If one doesn't count Travis Trice (who was five of six from the charity stripe in the final two minutes--and thank heavens for that), the Spartans only made two of eight. In the most ironic moment of an already crazy finish, the one time MSU did NOT want a made free throw (up by one with less than one second left), Marvin Clark hit nothing but net. Instead of the clock continuing to run after a missed free throw and allowing Indiana no chance to set up a last shot, the clock stopped on the make. Tom Izzo looked like he was about to keel over from a heart attack. Indiana had one last gasp, but the Hoosiers' desperation heave came about two feet short.

The Spartans survived and I probably saw another six months shaved off my life span.

Despite the excruciating circumstances, it was still a hard-fought victory over a desperate team on its home floor; and MSU did it without Branden Dawson. Despite all the travails this team has been through, they finish 12-6 in the Big Ten and 3rd place.

...and now I and every other MSU fan can take a breather until the conference tournament begins on Wednesday.