Saturday, March 19, 2016

An abrupt end to the basketball season

What is there to say?

Michigan State ran into a spirited team in Middle Tennessee State that out-worked, out-hustled, and out-shot them. The Spartans, unfortunately, played one of their worst games of the season when it mattered the most.

It's an incredibly sad way for Denzel Valentine, Bryn Forbes, Matt Costello, Colby Wollenman, and [maybe] Deyonta Davis to end their collegiate careers.

It also concludes what has been, outside of the Big Ten Tournament championship  (remember that?) and a first-round NCAA tourney win for the women's team, a bad week for MSU sports; and also, a bad week for two people associated with Spartan basketball, Branden Dawson and Mateen Cleaves. More on them later.

Back to today's game. I have to admit that, due to an unforeseen circumstance, I wasn't able to see most of it. Instead, I followed on my phone, listened to Will Tieman and Matt Steigenga's largely incredulous and mournful radio broadcast, and then finally the last 6 minutes or so of the CBS TV broadcast. Poor Steve Smith, former MSU standout, probably wishes to never have to provide color commentary for another MSU hoops game. Under the circumstances, he was unfailingly professional.

It was a stunning way for the season to reach conclude, and I still feel a bit numb. Strangely enough (or maybe not strangely), I'm neither angry nor even particularly depressed. More like shocked and numb. The Spartans seemed so out-of-sync today that I suppose I had a sense of foreboding throughout the game, and this gave me time to prepare myself for the inevitable.

Every single time it seemed that the Spartans might get it together and take the lead in this game, Middle Tennessee State responded with a score. In the final three minutes or so, the Spartans did what I rarely ever see them do: they panicked. Middle Tennessee, to borrow the tired old expression, smelled blood in the water and put MSU away.

Now to Branden Dawson and Mateen Cleaves. I'm disappointed with Dawson's situation (accused of domestic assault), but I am downright sick and despondent over Mateen Cleaves' sexual assault charge. Not that I know Cleaves personally, but from what I do know of him (or think I know of him), it seems completely out of character. If Tom Izzo, someone I consider to be of high moral standing, chose to name his son after Mateen, then that says a lot about Cleaves--or so it would seem.

It's now up to the court of law to decide. Maybe there is a dark side to Mateen Cleaves that few know about? I hope that's not the case, but if it is--and Cleaves committed the crimes of which he's accused, he needs to face the consequences.

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