Tag Archives: Denzel Valentine

The Boat Report: Bubble Wrap Edition

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.

Get right in there and make him feel better, DVal.

Get right in there and make him feel better, DVal.

Anyway. We’re here. It’s February. And things are getting HEATED!

On to the BOAT!

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

The Boat Report: We’re #1!

Michigan State basketball has a knack for playing anyone, anytime, any place. Aircraft carrier? Sure. Air Force Base in Germany? Yep. Scheduling non-conference games against Duke, Kansas, Connecticut, or Kentucky? Why not. How about an asteroid floating around space? Yeah, MSU will probably play someone there too.  Tom Izzo used all these games as a chance for his teams to get experience against better teams to use as a base for big games later in the season, however, MSU rarely won.

I like these guys. I like them a lot.

I like these guys. I like them a lot.

It was different last night. MSU took down #1 Kentucky 78-74 in the Champions Classic in Chicago in what is being described as a program win. I do agree with the sentiment that MSU needed to get one of these big non-conference wins, but I think our program is pretty good. Regardless, it was an impressive showing (especially in the first half) and now the Spartans should have the number one ranking next week.

How fun is it to watch MSU run the ball like they did? I know that Izzo says every year that MSU is going to run, but it seems like that really is the game plan this year. I was concerned that this would cause sloppy play as we’ve seen in the past, but the Spartans finished with just 7 turnovers.  With the stingy defense all over the place, Kentucky was forced into giving the ball away 17 times.

I hadn’t had a chance to see much of this team prior to the game yesterday, but I am impressed with this bunch of grizzled veterans. I mean, seniors, juniors, and sophomores who can contribute to a basketball team’s success? Who knew that was possible! If you listened to any of the broadcast yesterday, it didn’t seem like that was an option! And still, the narrative today seems to be that we learned nothing from the game other than Kentucky is young and good and wouldn’t have lost this game come March.

But I’m with Tom Izzo. Everyone is talking about how Kentucky is going to get better. Well guess what? The Spartans will be playing in March too. And I don’t know about you, but I think we’re going to be better too.

On to the Boat!

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

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

The Boat Report: Survive and Advance Edition

I know it might seem a little early in the season to be using that phrase, but anyone who is following the Big Ten this year knows that it’s all about survival.  Though we’ve started to see some separation in the pack (Michigan first, then a battle between Indiana/MSU/OSU, and then the others), most games have turned out to be the battles we all were expecting.

When we last spoke, Michigan State was about to embark on what would probably end up being their toughest stretch of the season.  With a home game against Ohio State and back to back road trips against Wisconsin and Indiana respectively, it seemed like MSU was going to be challenged to show what sort of team they really are.  And while the season is far from over, I’ve been really impressed with what I’ve seen.

After defeating Ohio State by 3 in East Lansing, Michigan State went on the road and stole a win from the clutches of the dreaded Badgers of Wisconsin. And then it was time to head to Bloomington. I discussed it at length with Sarah and had pretty much resigned myself to the fact that MSU was going to get blown out. While the Spartans did not end up with what would have been the biggest road win of their year, I thought they came out looking great.  The greatest thing about this team is the drive and the hustle. It would have been very easy to let the atmosphere and the frenetic pace of the Hoosiers (not to mention the incessant chants of “Gary sucks!” from the Indiana faithful) overwhelm us, but even when it seemed like Indiana would blow it open, the Spartans hung tough. Sure, the fouls were MADDENING but you’re never going to win that type of game with turnovers, missed lay ups and going scoreless the final 3:30 of the game. Regardless, MSU looked great and has nowhere to go but up. I cannot wait until the Hoosiers come to East Lansing.

The best part about this team? We’ve yet to see everything fire at once. I’m hoping that day comes soon.

On to the Boat!

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

The Boat Report: No Punches Allowed Edition

It’s time for the second installment of the 2012-2013 Boat Report! Goodness we have slacked.  I resolve that for the New Year, we will be better at Boat Reporting and generally updating the blog. I’m blaming our struggles on Andrew Maxwell because HEY everyone else is doing it. Now, where are we?

Big Ten basketball season is well underway and the moral of the story is: YOU CANNOT LOSE A GAME AT HOME EVER. Otherwise? Doom. The second storyline is Michigan State is about to embark on a schedule of doom and all of a sudden, everything is a MUST WIN. How is it a must win in January, you ask? Well, after splitting the first two games of the Big Ten schedule (loss at Minnesota, win vs. Purdue), MSU has a road test vs. Iowa before embarking on a schedule of doom in the Big Ten. Will they be out of the title chase if they lose tonight? No. But it will certainly not help their cause, especially because the last four games of the month involve Ohio Sate, trips to Wisconsin and Indiana (AH STOP), and home vs. Illinois.

Yikes.

But I digress.  The Purdue Boilermakers rolled into East Lansing on Saturday and I predicted a big win. Though I knew it would probably get scrappy, because that has been the theme of MSU vs. Purdue games of late, I thought the home court with give State the advantage. Besides, we just were not going to start Big Ten season o-2. Not an option. And, like I said above, we just cannot lose a game at home. Good LORD is the Big Ten terrifying.

Let’s check out the Boat!

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

2013 Boat Report: Mayflower edition

Since Sara and I gave you our pre-season assement off this season’s MSU team, a lot has happened. They lost a scrappy game to UConn in Germany. The won a scrappy game against Kansas in Atlanta. There was a cupcake, and then last night’s rough-and-tumble drama-fest against Boise State (the flashbacks to the football opener were not appreciated). So through four games, we present to you, the FIRST Boat Report of the 2012-2013 season. (If you’re not familiar with the Boat Report, please check out our very first one, where we explain this whack-a-doo metaphor for the team’s performance.)

Captain: Keith Appling. Obviously. Dude played every minute against Boise State and came up absolutely clutch in both the Kansas and BSU games. Appling is showing that whatever confidence or maturity he lacked last year, he has found in spades this year. A big question going into this season was “Who will have the ball with the game on the line?” At this point, I think we’re pretty sure it’s Appling. His shooting has shown remarkable improvement, the ball handling is also much better, and his slashing to the basket is back to what we saw his freshman season. As Izzo said last night, Keith is a man out there.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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