Monday, March 30, 2015

Random thoughts from the aftermath

After wimping out and only watching the first half of the Oklahoma game, I'm happy to report that I watched the ENTIRE Louisville game, start to nerve-wracking, heart-pounding finish. I was so nervous during the final few minutes of regulation and overtime that my hands were shaking.

It's funny that no matter how many of these games I've watched over the span of my sports fandom, it never gets any easier. I am always a nervous wreck when these big games are closely contested and go right down to the wire.

Michigan State is now one win away from tying Indiana for the most tournament wins of any Big Ten program. I can't think of a more satisfying victim than Duke for that 64th win.

Just out of curiosity, I took a look at the four rosters of Michigan State, Wisconsin, Duke, and Kentucky to see where their players are from. Seven of MSU's 16 players are from Michigan, and seven of Wisconsin's 16 players are from Wisconsin. MSU has only two players from outside of the Midwest, Lourawls Nairn (Bahamas--but played prep basketball in Kansas) and Colby Wollenman (Wyoming).

Based on a quick Wikipedia search, I've determined that give or take a few vacated John Calipari wins, the combined career won-lost record of the four Final Four coaches is 2842-909. That has to be the most combined victories of Final Four coaches in any individual year.

I don't want to get overly political in this blog, but I'm disturbed by Indiana's "religious freedom" law, which I see as merely an excuse for legalized discriminatory policies against the LGBTQ community. Imagine if Duke University, the University of Kentucky, Michigan State University, and the University of Wisconsin all boycotted the Final Four in Indianapolis? Of course, it won't happen, but if it did it'd make a huge statement and quite possibly bring the state of Indiana to its knees. It's a nice fantasy.

I was surprised to see that Loyola, a team that Michigan State beat handily on November 21 (a game that I actually attended) is playing against Louisiana-Monroe for the CBI championship. Good for them. Go Ramblers!

This will be the third Final Four in the last seven years that I won't be at home. Final Four weekend always takes place during my kids' spring break, so this year I'll be in Toronto on Final Four weekend. In 2009, I was in Chicago and in 2012 it was--of all places--Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The funny thing was, when we made these vacation plans, I said, "Ah, no problem, it'll be fine. MSU doesn't stand much of a chance to be in the Final Four, so no big deal if we're in Toronto." Maybe I should say that ever year.

If I think of any more random nonsense, I'll add it later.

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.