MSU vs. Kentucky: HYPE HYPE HYPE

Good morning, Spartans!  Here we are, it’s time for our first real test of the 2013-14 basketball season. It’s about time, am I right? Wait, this is only the second game of the season? Well.

Bring it.

I, like many of the Spartan faithful, haven’t seen a ton of this team yet…but what I have seen is very exciting. Why not test it out now? Let’s see what these guys have.  Tonight marks the first 1 v 2 matchup in about six years, but what most people care about is the amount of talent that will be on the floor in both games. Joe Rexrode has a great breakdown of some of the story lines leading into tonight’s game.

Now, I know everyone is taking some time today to feel bad for John Calipari and how unfair it is that he has to take his group of freshman (maybe one of the best classes ever assembled in college basketball) and face the experienced Spartans, but once you dry your tears…how about some HYPE? You know we love a hype video.

Who wants to hit the gym?

One of the most ridiculous games ever…MSU vs Kentucky, NCAA Tournament 2005

And a great wrap up from last year, featuring two of my favorite Izzo hugs of all time.

 

So there you have it. Tune into ESPN tonight at 7:30 to see our mighty Spartans take on the Wildcats of Kentucky.

Go Green!

 

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Filed under Basketball, College Basketball, Hype, MSU, Posted by Sara

Boat Report: SHIP OF DREAMS Edition

WHAT UP! Sports Squared is back! There was a hiatus, but you know…life happens. Now fueled by the football Spartans evisceration of Michigan and the upcoming basketball season hype, we’re back, just in time for the 2013-2014 basketball season’s first BOAT REPORT.

They called it the ship of dreams…and it WAS.

Everyone knows your Michigan State basketball Spartans are coming up on a season full of expectations, hopes and dreams. We all remember how this worked out the last time (RIP 2010-2011 season), but it’s time to shed those fears and embrace the hype. So without further ado, your boat report.

[Also, if you need some refreshing on the ship of dreams…here is in 30 seconds. Like this…except with fewer ice bergs.]

Captain: Keith Appling 

Duh. Keith isn’t the most purely athletic player on this team, but Tom Izzo has been working for three years to craft him into a Big Ten point guard. Keith can drive, he can shoot, he’s a good ball handler and most of all, he should be a big part of the leadership on this team. Keith (or as we like to call him, Keef or Keither) often takes the game on his shoulders on the court – hopefully he’s ready to shoulder some of that leadership off the court too. Things to watch for- assist to TO ratio. MSU has said they’re going to push the pace this year (no really), so Keef keeping the TOs to a minimum will bode well for MSU’s success.

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Filed under Basketball, College Basketball, MSU, Posted by Sarah, The Boat

Boat Report: The Sweet Sixteen Edition

::ahem:: BEAT DUKE.

Happy NCAA Tournament! At this point we’re halfway through the Sweet Sixteen, with MSU set to take on Duke tonight, so we figured we’d give a little first two rounds (suck it “first four”) boat update and look at MSU’s matchups with Duke.

First, the boat!

PAYNE SMASH

Captain: Adreian Payne Actually, I mean…NO, Payne you are the worst. (Please God, don’t leave us). It was clear through the first two rounds of the tournament, which included some bouts of MSU-patented slop, that Payne’s energy and athleticism is what lifts this MSU team to another level.

He has continued his extremely strong development, racking up dunks, blocks and rebounds and still shooting jump shots well. Payne is the glue of this team, and it’s very exciting, as he’s always been a favorite of ours at Sports Squared.

First mate: Gary Harris Obviously. Gar notched a career-high 23 points against Memphis and has continued to prove that it’s a Gary Harris world and we all just live in it. In addition to his sweet 3-point shooting, Gar has continued to play excellent aggressive defense and show great flashes of his NBA-caliber talent by driving to the basket. (ALSO please don’t leave us Gar, we love you).

Second mate (aka co-captains of towel fighting): Derrick Nix and Keith Appling Both Appling and Nix have shown a lot of guts through the first two rounds, though neither has exactly set the world on fire offensively. Nix has continued to be a solid rebounder and consistent scorer, while Appling has rediscovered his shot and lead from the floor. MSU needs both to continue their  leadership and solid play if the Spartans want to make another Final Four run.

Freshman Crow’s Nest: Denzel Valentine and Matt Costello Valentine continues to stuff the stat sheet in the all the ways that matter, racking up nine points, six boards, six assists and only one turnover against Memphis. He logged valuable minutes for MSU when Appling went out with his shoulder injury and proved that he’ll be a valuable part of the team’s post season. Matt Costello brought his own blocks and great defense to Memphis’s alleged “block party” and his awareness around the basket and overall skill for the game makes me really excited for what we’ll see from him in the future.

Bo’sun: Branden Dawson There’s been a lot of debate about Dawson, who’s seen a reduced offensive output in recent weeks. But in both tournament games so far, he’s shown that he’s engaged, meaning he’s playing excellent defense and racking up rebounds and steals. BJ, we don’t care if you don’t score 20 pts a game, but keep doing what you’re doing.

CAPTAIN’S COMMENDATION: Russel Byrd scored an actual game-time basket, y’all! RUSSEL we all want so badly for you to succeed. Keep on keepin’ on, you ginger fool.

As for tonight’s matchup against Duke, I’ve been up and down all week. Yesterday I was convinced we would lose, because after last year’s Louisville heartbreak, I wanted to prepare myself. Today I’m reminding myself of all the epic gauntlets Tom Izzo has faced before (Kansas>Louisville>UConn in 2009, Duke & Kentucky back-to-back in 2005).

The key to this game for the Spartans is their defense. If they can keep Ryan Kelley, Seth Curry and Mason Plumlee in check, the Spartans should win. All of those matchups (Payne, Harris and Nix, respectively) have the potential to go in MSU’s favor. It will also be interesting to see how Duke deals with Brandon Dawson, who’s an athlete they don’t necessarily have an answer for.

Thinking back to last year’s game against Duke, where MSU gave the Blue Devils a run for their money (the final score was 74-69), it’s clear MSU’s personnel has improved in a lot of ways. The loss of Draymond Green hurts, but is greatly alleviated by Payne’s development at the 4. Replace Brandon Wood with Gary Harris. MSU also has a much-improved sophomore Travis Trice and Brandon Dawson (both of whom were playing in only their fourth college game last year). Nix’s improvement at the should also benefit MSU’s ability to match up with Plumlee. All of that being said, March is March, and things mysteriously happen. (Please see Ohio State’s back-to-back buzzer beaters and Indiana’s baffling loss to Syracuse last night.) This is a game MSU can and should win, and the kind of game a team has to win if it hopes to win a national title.

Go Green!

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

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

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.

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

DO NOT PANIC

You would not be alone in Spartan Nation if you admitted that you’re a wee bit concerned with the state of our basketball team, especially after the miserable game on Sunday.  In fact, if I had updated the Boat immediately after the Ohio State game, it would have looked something like this:

Boat 2-27

 

But, I took a few days to reflect and I’m feeling a little bit better now.  With some help from our friends in Minnesota who upset Indiana last night, Michigan State is back in the running for a Big Ten title. Yes, it’s a long shot…and of course now there’s a scenario where Indiana/UofM/Wisconsin can win the Big Ten (DO NOT WANT), but MSU is only a game out now. Basically, we just need to win all of the remaining games.

Look at it this way, Sunday’s loss was the FIRST TIME all season that MSU had lost back to back games. That’s astonishing, especially after seeing them struggle against far inferior opponents (please see Louisiana Lafayette, 3 point victory) and especially after seeing how good the Big Ten has been. What I’m saying is, don’t let those two losses in a row ruin your image of the team.

There are issues. And in a week we saw the ceiling and the floor of this team. Obviously you don’t want to see a game like the Ohio State situation so close to March, but it’s important to keep our focus on bigger goals.  I have concerns, as do many of you, about what has happened to Keith Appling and Branden Dawson, but I’m not going to let these past couple of games dictate my entire opinion of the both of them. This is not the first time in Appling’s MSU tenure that we’ve seen him struggle with confidence. He’s dealt with this before.  The difference this year is how he responds on Sunday. He’s never going to be a Draymond Green type leader, but he’s a leader on this team. He just is. If his shot is going to continue to disappear (which I pray it doesn’t), then he just needs to focus on assists and making the plays that the Spartans need him to. As for Dawson? He just needs to remember that a basketball game has two halves, and he needs to be present for both of them.

In Tom Izzo’s press conference this week, he stressed that people need to stop panicking. Losses happen. They just do. It doesn’t mean that this team is terrible or that they will never win again. What it means, in this case, is that the Spartans need to refocus and get fired up for Sunday. I don’t think they’ll have a problem getting excited for the Michigan game, but they have had a problem getting up for every single game they play. That’s a problem. But it’s not something that we can’t overcome. I’m hoping that this off week gives every one a chance to remember what we’re doing and what the goals are. As Izzo said this week, MSU wasn’t even in the Big Ten title conversation when the season began. They have come a long way. And I believe it’s all going to be fine.

So what was the point of this post? I’m not really sure. I think we all just needed to rally a bit and remember that we have a huge game Sunday in Ann Arbor. All is not lost. We’re going to be fine. These are Izzo’s guys, after all. And I have more faith in him than anyone else come March. And remember, March is what we want.

If you’re still feeling down, Sarah and I have found something that has not failed to cheer us up. Watch this a few times and you will find joy again.

 

 

We’ll be back later this week to get some hype going for the Michigan game.

GO GREEN! 

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Filed under Basketball, College Basketball, MSU, Posted by Sara, The Boat

The Boat Report: Fat and Sassy Edition

What a difference a week makes, eh? No, we’re not abandoning ship over here (boat pun, YES!), we’re just smarting a bit from the knock back down to Earth delivered by the Hoosiers of Indiana.

When we last spoke, things were JOYOUS. Finally we had seen the potential of this team when pretty much everyone was able to play together. And then it all fell apart. From the second the game started on Tuesday, something was amiss with our beloved Spartans.  They didn’t appear to have the fire or focus that they came out with against Michigan. They looked tired and rattled and more than a few times were incredibly panicked. It wasn’t exactly what Spartan Nation had in mind when envisioning this game. Perhaps what was most disappointing was this because the first game that MSU just couldn’t close.  It had become one of the strong points of the season, and pretty much fell apart this game.  Additionally, if Indiana could have missed ever from outside, that would have helped too. But, we can’t always get what we want, I guess.

This is what TV Teddy makes Tom Izzo look like.

This is what TV Teddy makes Tom Izzo look like.

So, the Spartans lost 72-68, but there is no time to be down. Schedule of Doom part II is underway and MSU cannot let this effort get them down. With the next three games being (at) Ohio State, (at) Michigan, and (home) Wisconsin there is no rest for the weary. Perhaps this loss will remind the team that while they have an abundance of talent, it is not the time to be fat and sassy and NOTHING is guaranteed.

Onward to the Boat!

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Filed under Basketball, Big Ten, College Basketball, MSU, Posted by Sara, The Boat