Category Archives: Big Ten Tournament

Big Ten Tournament Quick Hits

Welcome to March! Ok, technically we’re halfway through March, but shiz is getting real. The Big Ten Tournament kicked off in EPIC style, with Illinois beating Minnesota on a Brandon Paul buzzer-beater. The rest of Thursday’s games were meh, but today’s slate features two re-matches of regular season bad beats (Indiana vs Illinois at 12 EST, and UM vs Wisconsin at 2 EST), plus MSU’s first game of the tournament against Iowa at 9 EST.

At least the team seems well-rested and ready to go?

Michigan State Big Ten Tournament Prep

Photo via @tommyjohnguy on instagram. Also, please note Gary Harris peeking out.

A lot of writers, etc are picking MSU to lose to Iowa in tonight’s matchup. The rational seems reasonable- in MSU and Iowa’s sole meeting this season, Iowa played MSU close without their best player (Roy Devyn Marble). However, that game was on Iowa’s home turf, where they have been tough this season- Indiana also notched a narrow win (4 pts) at Carver Hawkeye around the same time, and Wisconsin needed two overtimes to beat them in Madison. Iowa is a good team, but would anyone be picking Indiana or Wisconsin to lose to them at this stage of the season?

Iowa is also a desperate team- they would need to beat MSU and possibly one other team to play their way into the Big Dance, whereas Michigan State is almost guaranteed a 3-seed out of Auburn Hills at this point, short of winning the Big Ten Tournament.

Here at Sports Squared, we are not on the “Iowa will win” bandwagon. This team is too talented to lose to even a desperate, fired up Iowa team on a neutral floor. That being said, it’s March, stranger things have happened, and I’m a notoriously bad prognosticator.

Enjoy today’s slate of games, and a weekend of other green-filled March activities, and if you’ve ever feeling anxious, might we recommend a trip to calmingmanatee.com?

Get it, girl

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Filed under 2013 NCAA Tournament, Basketball, Big Ten, Big Ten Tournament, College Basketball, MSU, NCAA, Posted by Sarah

Big Ten Tournament: A look back

Before we get cracking on bracket talk, we thought we’d take a look back on Michigan State’s excellent Big Ten Tournament run, culminating with Sunday’s instant classic against Ohio State, MSU’s tournament championship, and subsequent #1 seed.

The Spartans first matchup was against the Iowa Hawkeyes, a team they had demolished at the Breslin Center during the regular season. What was most of note in this game was the play of Adreian Payne, who had 16 points, 7 rebounds, one block and played 20 minutes. It’s clear that Tom Izzo challenged some of the team’s role players to step up in Branden Dawson’s absence, and we saw the first glimpses of this in this game. The game got away from the Hawkeyes fairly quickly, and MSU was able to rest many of its main guys, including Draymond Green, for significant stretches. All in all, an excellent start to the tournament (although I was disappointed that MSU again failed to notch 100 pts against the Hawkeyes after coming so close the first time).

The Spartans second game in the Tournament gave them the chance to demolish the Wisconsin Badgers for a third time this season. The Badgers have been playing well coming into the post-season, and we knew Bo Ryan would have them ready to roll. MSU got down early, playing incredibly sloppy for the first part of the game, and getting down by 11 points. THEN #thornsanity struck, with Austin Thornton draining three triples in a row to bring MSU within 2. From that point on, it was all MSU, as the Spartans dismantled the Badgers handily for the third time in a season. Derrick Nix also played a huge role in this game…at one point, he had scored all of Michigan State’s points (7). He finished with 9 points, 5 rebounds and a steal and played 21 minutes. This was an incredibly balanced scoring effort from MSU, with Thornton notching 12 points, 13 from Keith Appling and 14 from Draymond Green.

MSU’s win over Wisconsin and Ohio State’s dismantling of the Wolverines set up a rematch between the two top teams in the Big Ten for all the marbles, just one week after Ohio State had crushed MSU’s hope of taking home sole possession of the regular season Big Ten Title. It was clear from the beginning of the game that both teams were viewing this as a game deciding the “real” Big Ten champ…with the added fact that Duke, UNC and Kansas had all lost in their conference tournaments, it was also possible the winner would get a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. From the beginning, the game was fast-paced, defense heavy and chippy. In the first half, Michigan State’s bigs did a great job on Jared Sullinger, restricting his scoring and landing him on the bench in foul trouble. MSU also did a good job of guarding William Buford without Branden Dawson. MSU took a 2 point lead into the locker room, but when OSU came out in the second half, they went on a huge run, hitting 3-pointer after 3-pointer. And then, there was Brandon Wood. Capping off a HUGE Big Ten Tournament appearance, Wood found his fifth gear, playing incredible defense, getting after the ball in transition and draining key threes to lead MSU on a 10-0 from which it never looked back. This game was incredibly close, but after that run by Wood, the Spartans were always just the one or two key steps ahead of the Buckeyes.

What does winning the Big Ten tournament mean for this team? Well, for a squad that dropped its final two games of the season, it first and foremost means a huge boost in their confidence. They can now enter the NCAA tournament with momentum. I also think winning against OSU after the heartbreaker a week before showed them (and us) that this is a team that can prepare for, and beat, anyone. There’s a lot of talk about athleticism and speed in Michigan State’s region of the NCAA bracket, but it’s not as though they’ve been playing small, slow teams all year. They went 2-1 with Ohio State this year (winning one in Columbus and one on a neutral floor), 3-0 against Wisconsin, and split home-and-homes with Michigan and Indiana. This is a team that beat Florida State and gave Duke and UNC good, close games early in the season. Now, playing their best ball, with a coach who’s dedicated to win, and wounded teammate traveling with them, I would give them a shot against anyone in the country. The contributions of the “role players” in the Big Ten Tournament- the performances turned in by Nix, Payne, Thornton and Wood- and to a lesser degree, Brandan Kearney, show that MSU is not a team where if you shut down one guy, they collapse. Draymond Green may have been the Big Ten Tournament’s MVP, but really this team functions as a unit, with Green and Izzo at its head. So do not despair, of the pundits picking Mizzou in the Final Four, or saying the Spartans will lose to the athletic Memphis Tigers. Keep Calm and Sparty on!

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Filed under 2012 NCAA Tournament, Basketball, Big Ten, Big Ten Tournament, College Basketball, MSU, NCAA, Posted by Sarah, Uncategorized

We’re #1!

How about that game, huh? We’ll be back later this week with more on MSU’s epic Big Ten Tourney victory, #1 seed selection, coin flip bracket, and MARCH MADNESS but I just wanted to share yesterday’s announcement of MSU locking up a #1 seed. 

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Filed under 2012 NCAA Tournament, Basketball, Big Ten, Big Ten Tournament, College Basketball, MSU, NCAA, Posted by Sarah, Video

Big Ten Tournament Championship Preview- MSU/OSU

After dropping their last two games of the Big Ten season, the Spartans have battled their way to the Big Ten Tournament Championship game, after impressive wins over Iowa and Wisconsin. I would be lying if I said wasn’t terribly nervous for this game. Ohio State beat MSU in such devastating fashion one week ago, that I have a really hard time knowing how this thing will go. We’ll go over how MSU can win, and how they can lose.

Keys to Victory:

1. Bench Points- For MSU to have a change against the Buckeyes, they’ll need the continued contributions of Derrick Nix and Travis Trice. They’ll also need Brandon Wood, Austin Thornton and Adriean Payne to keep playing at the high level they’ve already shown in the tournament. Wood, Thornton and Payne all start now, but it’s difficult to think of them as “starters.” Regardless, these five have been playing out of their mind, and keeping MSU’s offensive engine firing.

2. Where’s the Beef? In their win in Columbus, the Spartans straight-up abused Jared Sullinger with the inside size of Nix and Payne. MSU needs to continue that kind of abuse, and do a better jobs of rebounding than they did in the game in East Lansing. It’s clear Sullinger HATES playing against Nix, so getting him frustrated and off his game can only help MSU take home the hardware.

Ways to Lose:

1. Not controlling their emotions- Whenever Michigan State is placed in a high-pressure, big-game situtation, they play with everything they have. I hate to notch this in the “ways to lose” column, but anyone who watched the UNC game, the Michigan game in Ann Arbor, the Indiana game in Bloomington and the OSU game in EL know it’s true. The Spartans get messy, make mistakes, including turnovers, stupid fouls and bad, emotional decisions. This is a team that needs to come out today and play like a well-oiled machine, not an erratic group.

2. Not having an answer for Buford: Again, anyone who watched last week’s matchup knows that as soon as Branden Dawson went down, the Spartans didn’t have an answer for William Buford’s shooting. Buford has been spotty all season, but is coming on in tournament time. I don’t doubt Tom Izzo has some kind of gameplan for dealing with Buford (which he probably didn’t have prepared prior to last week’s game), but MSU has got to stick with it. Buford is 6’6″, so MSU should have some good size to deal with him, the trouble is finding the right matchup. Luckily the Spartans have seen MUCH improved defensive play from Russel Byrd (6’7″ and Brandan Kearney (6’5″) recently, so they may end up being part of the equation.

And since today is Draymond Green’s last Big 10 game, win or lose, please enjoy these highlights of his stellar Big 10 Player of the Year season. 

[PS. It seems to early to think about it, but Kansas going down so early in the Big 12 Tournament has to leave the door open for one of these two teams to get a 1-seed in the Big Dance, right? More on this after the game, of course.]

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Filed under Basketball, Big Ten, Big Ten Tournament, College Basketball, MSU, Posted by Sarah