Thursday, March 19, 2015

March Madness

I just finished watching Purdue lose an overtime thriller to Cincinnati, while a few hours earlier I saw Ohio State escape VCU in overtime. Harvard came back against North Carolina and only lost by two. Two 3-seeds have already gone down (Baylor and Iowa State). March is mad, as usual.

I'm sufficiently recovered from the Spartans' heartbreaking loss to Wisconsin in the Big Ten tournament championship game. (That makes two gut-wrenching, and somewhat controversial, losses to Wisconsin in conference championships--football in 2011 and now basketball in 2015. I'm done with playing the Badgers in conference title games. It never ends well).
I have no idea what to expect from MSU's game against Georgia tomorrow. (I won't be around to see it anyway, since it starts at 12:40. I'll be at work and will have to follow it on my phone). The team has been so unpredictable this season that anything is possible. I don't know much about Georgia either. Looking at their season, they have no wins over any team currently in the top 25, though they played Kentucky close both times they faced the Wildcats--for whatever that's worth.
My main concern with MSU is their inability to put teams away. I could see the Spartans having, say, a 10-point lead with two minutes left and somehow managing to let it slip away, either losing in a buzzer-beater or hanging on to win by two or three points. I suppose what would shock me is if MSU is either blown out by Georgia or blows out the Bulldogs themselves. This will most likely be a close game decided by less than five points.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Playing with house money

It was the most satisfying basketball victory of the least so far.

MSU's 62-58 comeback win over Maryland reminded this fan of the great Tom Izzo-coached teams of the past. The game that immediately came to mind was the 1999 Elite Eight win over heavily favored Kentucky. The Spartans overcame a 17-4 deficit, fought and clawed back, and beat the Wildcats 73-66.  Against the Terrapins yesterday, the Spartans overcame deficits of 12-1 and 23-7 to come back, repeatedly punch Maryland in the mouth, and render the Terps wounded and defeated. It was a script followed by many great Izzo teams in the past.

There was a resilience and resolve in yesterday's performance that I've rarely seen this season. It's a testament to the greatness of Tom Izzo and his uncanny ability to mold and shape a basketball team through the course of a season.

As a fan who has endured more nailbiting close games than I can even count this season, I decided to simply turn off my emotions as much as possible yesterday and simply let the game unfold. It made for a less harrowing experience.

Now the Spartans are playing with house money. I don't expect MSU to beat Wisconsin in today's tournament championship, but neither would I be shocked if it happened. As we've come to expect, Izzo has the team playing its best basketball when it matters most and almost anything seems possible.

Beating Wisconsin will be a tall order, as they are clearly the class of the Big Ten. Frank Kaminsky should be national player of the year. The guy can beat you in so many ways: great post player with nimble moves who can also shoot from the perimeter. The Badgers also have a great supporting cast in Koenig, Dekker, Hayes, and Gasser.

Still, I love how MSU is coming around in March. They may not have enough to knock off Wisconsin, but the game should certainly be interesting.