Saturday, January 30, 2016

Is Spartan basketball back? (and other stuff)

I'm reserving judgment for now, but it looks like maybe, just maybe, Spartan basketball has righted the ship. They put in a dominating performance against Northwestern, a team that--after a great start--now does not appear capable of making the NCAA tournament.

Denzel Valentine looks like himself again, Bryn Forbes is out of his shooting slump, Matt Costello continues to play aggressive inspired ball, and Matt McQuaid had his best game in at least a month. He lit up the Wildcats in the second half.

So tomorrow MSU has what should be an easy win against Rutgers, the worst Big Ten basketball team in decades. Unless the Spartans come out either flat or over-confident (or both) it should be a blowout win for the Spartans at Breslin.

I'm still trying to figure out what Rutgers brings to the Big Ten. They are terrible in football and men's basketball, though they do have a strong women's basketball program under Vivian Stringer. Supposedly, Rutgers brings an East Coast television audience, but I'm not convinced.

On the subject of the most recent admissions to the Big Ten, I'm a little upset that it was so easy for Maryland and Rutgers to become members, while Michigan State had to cajole, lobby, and fight throughout the 1940s in order to gain admission. Now, admission to the conference seems to be as simple as how much television money can be gained from the new member school. The Big Ten isn't what it used to be.

Now back to Northwestern. Why are they so consistently mediocre in basketball? How is it that they have never made the NCAA tournament? It's baffling. Northwestern has been reasonably successful in football, but not in hoops. Conventional wisdom would be that it's more difficult to be good in football than basketball, though Northwestern has somehow defied that. I'll have to come back and inestigate this further.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

My take on those kooky Michigan State uniforms

Much has been made about the neon day-glo lime green uniforms the Spartans wore last night against Maryland, with most fans (and non-MSU fans) disliking them.

Here's my take: As long as the players like them, and in turn play well while wearing them, I don't much care what they wear.

I stopped fighting the "uniform battle" years ago.

My favorite Michigan State uniforms ever were the ones the football team wore between 2007-2009, Mark Dantonio's first three season as head coach. They had a neat, clean traditional look that harkened back to the classic look of Duffy Daugherty's 1960s teams.

When MSU initiated the "re-branding" with Nike in 2010, and the football uniforms received a slicker, busier, more "modern" look, I wasn't happy. It seemed like MSU changing uniforms just for the sake of changing uniforms. I admit that when it comes to sports uniforms, particularly football and baseball, I veer towards stodgy traditionalism.

But a funny thing happened in 2010. When the famous "Little Giants" fake field goal play jump started what became an 11-2 Big Ten championship football season, those new uniforms I disliked so much when I first saw them before the season started didn't look so bad anymore.

My attitude has now evolved into--in the words of colorful former Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis--"Just win, baby."

As long as Nike isn't calling the shots and force feeding uniforms that Michigan State doesn't like, I simply don't care anymore. As long as the players like them and play well in them, I will give my (frequently grudging) approval to whatever they wear. It may not stop me from shaking my head in "grouchy middle-aged guy" befuddlement, but I've surrendered in the uniform wars.

Michigan State players clearly loved those lime green uniforms and won a must-have game against Maryland yesterday, so I give 100 percent approval to those uniforms.

Now get the hell off my lawn!