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HYPE HYPE HYPE: Game day edition

Wake up, it’s game day!

I don’t have a ton to say today. I’m excited. I’m scared. It’s very Jessie Spano over here.

What I will say is this: I think Michigan State has a great chance at winning tonight’s game. As always in football, the mistakes and miscues and things you can’t predict will end up deciding the game. In that regard, I give an edge to MSU and their disruptive defense, rather than OSU and their explosive offense.

Final score: MSU 24- OSU 20.



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Boat Report: Gut Check Edition

Welp, here we are friends. Two games left in the Big 10 regular season, and SOMEHOW Michigan State is still in the running for a share of the conference title, despite losing its last three games. (For more on all the Big Ten scenarios, Rexrode has you covered.) The thing is, aside from going 0-2 against Indiana, the Spartans have split with every other competitive team in the Big Ten, and all the other top teams keep losing. So, as MSU heads into Thursday’s game against Wisconsin, we’ll take a look at who’s showing captain-like qualities, and who has to walk the plank.

Also, you might want to get out your best corn-colored attire for the Indiana/Michigan game on Sunday, because in addition to beating Wisconsin, MSU needs the Wolverines to beat Indiana in order to force a four-way conference title tie (Indiana, OSU, UM and MSU).

On to the Boat!

My mouse is broken, so this is the worst boat ever.

My mouse is broken, so this is the worst boat ever.

Captain: It has never been more obvious that the captain of the Spartan Boat is Adreian Payne. In the losses against OSU, Michigan and Indiana he showed the most hustle on the floor, and continued his unbelievable three-point shooting, which helped keep Michigan State in all three close games. Payne had 12 boards and 14 points against Michigan, and his stats for the three games previous are just as impressive. 15-12 against OSU, 7-17 against Indiana, 14-15 against Nebraska. For a team that looks like they are lacking in energy and focus, Payne is playing with twice as much hustle and focus as anyone else. There’s a lot of talk about how this team lacks a leader…Why can’t it be Payne?

First Mate: Gary Harris. LOOK. I will not entertain any arguments about Harris’s late turnover or missed FT against Indiana. Harris is the best freshman in the country (since Nerlins Noel tore his ACL) and as the only non-Payne player scoring consistently, he’s kept MSU in games where they should have been trailing by double-digits. His last five games scoring totals: 16, 14, 19, 14 and 17 pts. Without Gary Harris, MSU does not even sniff the Big Ten conference title.

Second Mates: Derrick Nix and Travis Trice. Nix has not been stunning lately, but he’s been good and consistent. He is, maybe, the best free throw shooter on the team currently. Sometimes he is maddeningly Nix-like, but he doesn’t make me have a rage blackout, so there you go.

Trice showed that his game is returning, after being out for what seems like a year with concussion symptoms. He made several 3s against UM and seems to be re-finding his feet, although Izzo didn’t appear to love the way the offense ran with him at the helm. Welcome back, Trizzle!

Freshman Crow’s Nest: Denzel Valentine and Matt Costello Honestly, would love if MSU could involve these two more, as they’ve shown a lot for young guys. But their minutes are important to the team’s depth, and both are playing fairly solid basketball.

Tropical Island Vacation: Keith Appling. Keith, oh Keith. What is your life? This regression to last season’s mean is inexplicable and frustrating. We all know you’re not a “natural” PG, whatever that means, but there’s no reason for you to just forget how to play basketball sometimes. You’re also in a shooting slump, which is unfortunate. You played better against Michigan, which was encouraging, but made idiot mistakes down the stretch, which was heartbreaking. You were so clutch and icy at the beginning of the season! How can we help you? One thing’s for sure, this team needs you to have any hope at the Final Four run, so we hope you get lots of hugs and stuff and figure yourself out soon.

Walk the Plank: Branden Dawson. DAWSON. You are an idiot. Speaking of people who look like they’ve never played basketball before, you missing bunny after bunny is INFURIATING. If you can’t make a layup, what good are you to an NBA team? We’re all glad your knee is well-healed, but maybe now you need to focus up on not making the world’s most baffling passes, remembering how to put the ball through the hoop and drive the lane. You are a physical freak and one of the most athletic players in the Big Ten. ACT LIKE IT.


Filed under Basketball, Big Ten, College Basketball, MSU, NCAA, Posted by Sarah, The Boat, Uncategorized

We Been On

When you last saw us here at Sports Squared, we were a huge bundle of nerves over the upcoming MSU-Michigan game at the Breslin Center. The matchup featured the first top-10 contest between the two schools EVER. The game had huge implications on the Big Ten race, national picture and would either results in Michigan losing 3 of their last four games (Three on the road against tough conference opponents) or MSU putting themselves in the top spot in the Big Ten.


Slap hands!

Before tip-off, I had literally given myself a side stitch due to nerves and I had to stand up and breathe slowly.

And then about halfway through the first quarter, I was stricken with utter disbelief. I kept waiting for the inevitable cold spot, the insane Michigan run, the tightening of the score and my nerves. IT NEVER HAPPENED.

Michigan State ran Michigan out of the gym last night, and it was glorious. It was beautiful. It was this particular Spartan team showing everything, in a way most MSU fans knew could happen and had been waiting for.

We’ll have a Boat Report likely following Saturday’s Nebraska game, and before the Murderer’s Row Round 2 portion of the schedule, but for now, some quick thoughts on last night’s game.

  • I’m not entirely sure where to start, but I think I’ll start with Derrick Nix. Nix, who has been in equal measure MSU’s most frustrating and transcendent player over the past two years is finally, finally, finally starting to look like a dominant post player. He wants to take it to the basket and eat up whoever has drawn the unfortunate assignment of guarding him. Cody Zeller, Raymond Hammonds, and Michigan’s Jordan Morgan/Mitch McGary/John Horford combo couldn’t stop the Nix train, and at this point I don’t think anyone could while he’s dialed in. 
  • The DEFENSE and secondarily the REBOUNDING were everything one hopes for from a Michigan State team last night. The defense was stifling, aggressive and straight up pesky. MSU held Tim Hardaway, Jr., an All Big Ten frontrunner, to 1-11 and 0-5 from three. The Spartans had 9 steals, 3 blocks and FORTY rebounds, including fourteen offensive rebounds. Keith Appling did not have the most stellar offensive game, but he stuck with it and connected when it mattered. He also held Trey Burke, Wooden Award favorite, to 18 points (7-11, 3-5 from behind the arc) and a lot of those points came in garbage time, because this game was full of it.
  • The contribution from MSU’s bench/freshman contingent was incredible. Going into this season, a huge question mark was how much would top recruit Gary Harris be able to contribute? That question has been definitively answer, with Harris leading the team in scoring last night, as well as racking up four rebounds, three assists and three steals. There is no question: Harris is special and should be the Big Ten Freshman of the Year.
  • I guess bench contribution is getting another bullet point, because I haven’t even touched on Denzel Valentine, Matt Costello or Alex Gauna yet. I’ve felt for a few weeks that if MSU could get more “do no harm” minutes out of these three, it would go a long way toward helping their injury and short bench problems. Valentine has overcome his early conference play hurdles to become MSU’s most valuable sixth man (notching seven points, nine rebounds and four assists against Michigan). Everyone had an inkling Harris would be invaluable to this team. I don’t think anyone thought Valentine would be this important. Additionally, Alex Gauna played well and I want to hug the hell out of Matt Costello and his elation. Both played great.
  • My final thought is- now what? MSU has Indiana at home exactly a week from last night’s game. After Saturday’s Nebraska matchup, they face Indiana, OSU, Michigan and Wisconsin, with the OSU and Michigan games on the road. If the team can maintain this intensity, I predict they could come out of that stretch 3-1, the same record they notched in their OSU-Wisconsin-Indiana-Illinois death stretch earlier in the season. The likely loss is the game at Crisler, because after the ass whooping MSU handed out, the Wolverines will be hungry for blood and they remain one of the best teams in the country. The benefit for MSU in this final stretch is that they’ll see two tough opponents at home, and the Izzone has really shown it can rock the Breslin for these big games.

Whew. I have a lot of emotions. Go Green!

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It Ain’t Easy being Green

Full disclosure. I have not been the most diligent, loyal MSU fan this season. I’ve spent a lot of second halves out of the house, on running trails, at the grocery store, rather than hurling obscenities, and inevitably the remote at my TV. 

See, somewhere around halfway through the third quarter of the Notre Dame game, my fandom snapped. I will not pretend like I’m one of those rational fans who soaks in touchdowns and double overtime losses with the same even keel. I am one of those fans who lives and dies on every play- perhaps you’ve seen my football yelling over on Twitter @sports_squared?

So this season has been tough for me, because after the Steelers, MSU football is my #1 rooting interest. I didn’t grow up in Michigan. Prior to 2004, the most thought I’d given either team was probably related to their playing Penn State in some way, but honestly I was not much of a college sports fan in general. When I was applying for colleges in 2003, I applied to both the University of Michigan and MSU, in an attempt to get out of my native Pennsylvania. I chose to go to MSU for journalism (yes, I was accepted to both schools) and for financial reasons, and I learned really, really quickly about the U of M/MSU rivalry.

I sat through a lot of really tragic MSU/UM games. My favorite moment came in MSU’s 2005 loss to UM when Domata Peko returned a Chad Henne fumble for a touchdown. From then on, you could not coax a good word about UM fans out of me. I don’t have a problem with people who went to Michigan in general- I have a problem with the people who root for their sports teams, and the manner in which they choose to do it.

This is why the “Little Brother” comment is still a thing five years later. To MSU fans, the comment neatly sums up everything about U of M fans that grates on us. The implication that Ann Arbor wouldn’t accept us upon its hallowed grounds. The outright belief that MSU success only come because of Blue & Maize inadequacy. The attitude that their teams are always the best, even when they’re not. The poll and pundit bias. The loudmouthed defense of the school from people who didn’t even GO there.

Michigan State fandom is a brotherhood of sorrow. It’s living through John L. Smith and coming out on the other side. It’s Final Four losses and the constant bombardment with the message that you’re not good enough. Rooting for the Wolverines is like rooting for the Yankees or the Cowboys or Alabama. It’s easy, because they’re good. They’re well-regarded and they have a ton of money and clout. So, congratulations Wolverine fans, you picked a winner.

I’ll be honest. I wouldn’t put my money on Michigan State to win tomorrow. And that proves I’m a Spartan fan — Because U of M fans had unshakable belief in their team each of the past four years, even when it was fairly clear they were an inferior team. They still use excuses like Rich Rod, or last year’s “trash tornado” to account for getting trounced. Obviously they’ve always been the better team, and the Spartans have just gotten lucky.

This year, the Spartans have struggled, to say the least. Michigan looks as good as any team in the Big 10, and are playing at home. Michigan State pulling off a fifth consecutive victory would be stunning. But I’m going to take a page out of Big Brother’s book and say I think MSU can win. Michigan is not a flawless team, and MSU has offensive promise (for example, Maxwell leads the B1G in passing yards, and Bell leads in rushing. Riddle me that.) and a great defense. My belief MSU can win is based on absolutely nothing but my faith in MSU’s program and its superiority over Michigan’s. That’s what we call “culture change” and it’s not going back to the way it was any time soon.

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by | October 19, 2012 · 4:06 pm

MSU vs. Indiana- A season in .gifs

When MSU was #13 in the preseason polls:

When Michigan fans said their team was BACK:

10 minutes before Boise State kickoff:

10 minutes after Boise State kickoff:

When MSU is #10 in the polls:

Before the Notre Dame game:

After Notre Dame:

When Bennie Fowler drops a ball:

When MSU can’t score a touchdown:

After Ohio State:

So now I’m like:

And to Andrew Maxwell:

And just for fun:

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OLYMPICS (Opening Ceremony Live Blog)

Friends, the time is finally upon us- the 2012 Summer Olympics! Join us at 7:15  EST for a live blog of the Opening Ceremonies. Until then, here’s an inspirational US Women’s Gymnastics montage. Try not to cry during Kerri Strug’s vault. I dare you.

London, bring on the sheep, double-decker buses and the Spice Girls!

Click here to open the live blog


by | July 27, 2012 · 9:27 am

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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