Why, hello fans and supporters of Sports Squared! Actually, it might just be down to my sister and my mom and this point, but hey. They count and they have to read what I write because they’re related to me.
Sarah and I took some time off because… well… I don’t really know. It’s not as though we stopped following MSU – if you check our Twitters, you’ll see that we are still firmly on the Spartan Boat and following every move. I think sometimes it’s just nice to enjoy things – like the Rose Bowl victory! Regardless, we are thick in the hunt of another Big Ten basketball title, and before we get to March Madness, I felt it time to give a quick update.
I don’t even know when we last spoke, but it’s safe to assume that we blew up the Boat, kicked a few people off, felt angry, had unspeakable joys, cried, laughed, and slapped the floor in regards to this basketball team. Sarah and I are both in agreement that we love this team. We love them with caution and safety, but we love them. Finally, last night, our leader Adreian Payne returned to the team after 16 years of sitting on the bench due to the most annoying foot injury of all time. One of the lovely Only Colors bloggers last night said that our team has sort of a Final Destination feel to it at this point, with the most random and frequent set of injuries the world has ever seen. Admit it – you thought that Travis Trice was going to break his leg last night when he went down with a twisted ankle. It’s ok, we all did.
Anyway. We’re here. It’s February. And things are getting HEATED!
On to the BOAT!
Captain: It should be of ZERO surprise to people that I have selected Adreian Payne as the captain. We survived while he was out, but Michigan State is a completely different team when Payne is on the floor. I was really pleased with how he performed, especially since he had been out 6 games. He looked a little tired, but Payne being on the floor is what makes this good team great. While Payne only finished with 3 rebounds, it seemed like he was every where. He allowed everyone else to do their jobs, without worrying who was going to be down low. The other remarkable thing? When Payne was healing on the bench, I noticed that he had become more coach-like. I was pleased to see that this carried over as he returned to the playing floor. He got after the guys when effort was down or when mistakes were made, and that is something this team will need if they want to have any success in March. Welcome back, Adreian.
First Mate: Denzel Valentine. With Branden Dawson dealing with the broken hand, Michigan State was going to need someone else to step up and be the X Factor. Every championship team needs that guy who brings a little something extra. I believe that DVal has become that guy. His effort last night was insane, finishing with an impressive 11 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 steals. Learning that Keith Appling was going to be sitting out his first ever (WHAT) game as a Spartan didn’t concern me as much because of how well Valentine had been playing. I would rather rest Keith now, and get more performances like this out of Denzel, than have a one armed Appling come March. So, welcome to the front of the Boat, Denzel. Just please look when you’re walking around up there.
Second Mate: K3nn3 Kam3nsk3! Ok, I have often had concerns that the only thing Kenny knows how to do is shoot the three. This is fine when it’s falling, but horrible when it’s not (most obvious sports statement ever?). I want him to have a plan B. But hey, if he’s going to be making those shots all the time, I’ll take it! Kaminski finished the night with 19 points, finishing 5/6 from three point land. That’s pretty good, sir. There were rumors that Kenny was one of the best shooters on the team (which we’ve heard before **Byrd**), but it seems as though it actually might be true this time.
Crow’s Nest: Gavin Schilling and Alvin Ellis the III. I love these guys. I love Schilling because he’s #teamminifro and Ellis because he is full of #toughness. I mean, did you see how PUMPED Tom Izzo got when Ellis was on the floor, scrambling for a loose ball? You know Izzo loves a kid that can scrap, and both of them are showing their ability. I think that Payne being out allowed these two to get some valuable minutes that will only help as the season moves on, and even in to next year. They’ve both got some growing to do, but the future is bright.
Hammock of Healing: Keith Appling. We all knew this wrist injury wasn’t just going to go away, and last night that came to fruition. I still wish that he had just sat out vs. Georgetown (since the rest of the team basically did mentally…), but I’m glad that the team left no shadow of a doubt on whether they were going to win. Most impressive? That was the first game in Appling’s Spartan career where he did not play. That’s… insane, impressive and the definition of #toughness. I think that having Payne out was more harmful for the Spartans in the long run, since they are so heavy at guard, but I still would rather have Keith on the floor than the bench. Get well soon, Keith.
Iceberg: Alex Gauna. I don’t have much to say about him except… OOPS… I think he picked up a foul on his way out.
And there you have it! The Boat! It’s worth noting that Travis Trice finished with an impressive 7 assists to 0 turnovers and Matt Costello has been playing great minutes in Payne’s absence, but I can’t just make a position for everyone! Additionally, I’m always cautious with my MSU love, but after a game like that…it’s hard to hide. I know we have to temper excitement since it was Penn State, but you have to remember that PSU went into Columbus and won there, an impressive feat no matter the current state of the Buckeyes. MSU will have another tough test on Sunday as they travel to Wisconsin to take on the BadgerFaces. It’s an important showdown as the Spartans look to stay atop the Big Ten. Keep an eye on Michigan as they play at Iowa on Saturday.