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.
Anyway. We’re here. It’s February. And things are getting HEATED!
On to the BOAT!
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.
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!
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.
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!
Remember when I promised an upbeat post the other day? Well, luckily basketball season has arrived to cheer everyone up (at least for now)! Sarah covered the upperclassmen in her last post, and I am going to take a look at the incredible group of underclassmen featured on the Spartan roster this year. I am unreasonably excited to see everyone play together as I think this is one of the deepest/most talented group of players Tom Izzo has ever had. Although, unreasonable excitement usually means that I will be crushed, but! I am cautiously optimistic.
There is no conversation about this 2012-2013 Spartan squad that cannot begin without mentioning sophomore small forward Branden Dawson. After tearing his ACL last year, the question going into this season was what version of Dawson would return? Sarah and I had extensive conversations about the impact the injury might have. Would we see a cautious return to the floor ala Kalin Lucas post-Achilles snap? While the Spartans have only played two exhibition games, I think it’s safe to say that we can feel great about the current status of Branden Dawson. Save for the brace worn on the repaired knee, one wouldn’t know that Dawson was battling back from anything. Though he was a bit sloppy/slow in exhibition two, Dawson has given virtually no indication that he is suffering any ill effects from the ACL repair. His recovery has been absolutely shocking. The dunks, the shooting, the athleticism every time he’s on the floor leaves me itching to see what this season will bring. While there’s some concern about where offense will come from for this team, I have absolute faith in Branden Dawson being the go-to guy. The only thing stopping Dawson is himself, in my opinion. He was beat down the floor by Derrick Nix in one series of the second exhibition, something I’m sure he will not soon forget. The upside and potential of Dawson is incredible. We’ll always wonder if the outcome of last year’s season would have been different had Dawson been on the floor, but I’m ready to see how he’ll do this year.
How has Dawson looked so far? Luckily for you, MSU Athletics put together some highlights from exhibition number one: