Thursday, January 14, 2016

Butt kicking at Breslin

When the highlight of your evening at a Michigan State basketball game is hearing "Let's Dance" played over the PA system during a timeout (RIP, David Bowie), you know you have trouble.

I just returned home from Breslin Center and am trying to process what has to be the worst home court butt-kicking MSU has received since Duke came to town in the 2003-2004 season and drubbed the Spartans.

For one of the few times since Izzo has been coach, it appeared the Spartans were thoroughly unprepared for this game. Outhustled, outshot, outrebounded, outcoached in the first half. It was just awful. There is no way to sugarcoat it.
The game was a perfect storm: Iowa was focused and executed perfectly, while MSU was out of sync and sloppy. By the time the Spartans woke (a little bit) from their slumber in the second half, it was way too late.

I won't say the sky is falling. It's only January. Denzel Valentine may still not be himself yet. As disappointed and numb as I feel now, I still believe this team can do big things this year. Believe it or not, a conference title is still not completely out of the question, though with two losses already, the Spartans will need help.

The question going forward is this? Was last night an anomaly? I think we can say with certainty that, at this point anyway, Iowa is a better team than Michigan State. In fact, Iowa may be the best team in the Big Ten. But are they that much better? Was this just a matter of MSU not matching up well with Iowa? Or are the Spartans levelling off? Going into this season, most thought this would be a rebuilding year. Then when the team got off to such a great start, expectations changed and the Spartans eventually found themselves at number one in the nation. Clearly, at this point in the season, the Spartan are nowhere near the best team in the country, nor are they the best team in the conference.

Last night's game left me, and probably many other MSU fans, completely befuddled. A struggling Wisconsin at Kohl Center now looks like a much more daunting task than it appeared to be just three hours ago. How the Spartans respond will tell us a lot more about where this team stands.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Spartans rout the Nittany Lions

When this year's Spartan basketball team is firing on all cylinders, which thankfully has happened most of this season, they are an absolute joy to watch. This was definitely the case today, as MSU blew out Penn State 92-65 in State College.

It's windy and snowy outside here in Okemos, so it felt comfortable here on my couch drinking coffee with very little reason to get worked up. It did feel that Penn State was the beneficiary of some ticky-tack foul calls in the first half, resulting in a 19-3 free throw differential. This was the only reason the Nittany Lions were "only" down by 13 at the half.

The Spartans have so many weapons at their disposal. Bryn Forbes lit up the scoreboard in the first half, Matt Costello and Deyonta Davis continue to play brilliantly in the paint, with Costello in particular displaying some nifty moves in the last several games. Gavin Schilling provides strong defense, resembling an immovable brick wall in the post. And, lest I forget, how great is it to have Denzel Valentine back? He worked off his first half cobwebs and looked more himself in the second half, making "wow" passes and burying jumpers.

Now, how about we get some payback against Iowa on Thursday?