Tag Archives: 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!


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


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.



Filed under Basketball, 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: Slop the Deux

It’s taken me a few days to update the Boat for a lot of reasons, the main one being uncertainty around Draymond Green’s knee injury. As many of you probably saw, Day Day went down with a mysterious (and painful) knee injury in the second half of the game vs. Illinois on Tuesday.  The way it happened (little contact, twisting), Sarah and I feared the worst – torn ligament- but were pleasantly surprised when it was called only a sprain.

This picture makes me cringe.

Regardless, the game on Wednesday can only be described as a giant, steaming pile of slop. Michigan State was handed another one point Big Ten road loss at the hands of the Illini. After defeating Minnesota in East Lansing, the Spartans hit the road trying to keep their Big Ten title hopes alive. While I do not believe the chances are completely diminished, I do think MSU missed a valuable opportunity to get a key road victory.

Instead of putting up a respectable effort, the Spartans had an absolutely dismal performance, finishing the night with an insane 24% shooting from the floor. I kept thinking things would turn around… that SOMEONE would get hot. But, after approximately 15 missed layups and Mr. Green drawing his second foul/technical combination, I figured this was going to be an epic disaster. And, indeed, it probably wins the sloppiest game of the season (thus far).

One other interesting thing was both Tom Izzo and Bruce Webber commented on how the ball was overinflated. I’m not sure the outcome of the game would have been different, but it’s an interesting note and perhaps a small explanation for why the shooting was so terrible for both teams. Just wanted to throw that out there… Food for thought.

Surprisingly, Michigan State managed to lose by only one point with an opportunity (well, two if you count the Derrick Nix free throws) to win the game had Keith Appling made that last second basket.  How MSU only suffered that one point loss is beyond me. While the Spartans had a ton of rebounds, the only reason that was necessary was because they were missing EVERYTHING. Nothing is more irritating to me than missed layups, and this game had missed layups all over the place.

As you can imagine, this Boat update is quite miserable.

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

The Boat Report: Confusion and Complacency

When we last met, Michigan State had just upset Wisconsin in Badger Territory and was ready for a short break before facing Iowa at home. We all know how that game went. Iowa was confused, befuddled, and generally terrible as they lost 95-61 and allowed MSU to notch their 15th straight win. Sarah and I discussed how we couldn’t believe that we hadn’t lost a game since Duke. Things were looking good.

Saturday came and the Spartans faced a scrappy Northwestern team in Evanston. At first, things were looking good…and then… well, then we were reminded that this team is young. It’s been a long time since I’ve been frustrated with the squad, in fact, I can probably trace it back to the second half of said Duke game.  I’m not that upset at our offense (although, it’s clear we need someone to step up and be our #3 when Green and Appling have issues), but this game was a clear reminder that nothing is certain in this conference. Northwestern is a good team. It seems like the Wildcats always have guys who can just plain shoot. But added to that…Michigan State was a mass pile of confusion and issues on defense and Northwestern knew it.  As Izzo said, allowing any team to score 81 points on us is absolutely ridiculous.

I bet every guy on the team had nightmares of Northwestern’s backdoor cuts. Goodness we could not stop them!  In fact, the defensive effort from the Spartans was so bad that Tom Izzo was forced to play most of the game with four guards, and even had to put Austin Thornton at center. Jeez. I know a lot of people want to attribute this loss to looking ahead to the Michigan game on Saturday, but I honestly don’t think that was the case. MSU was outmatched and out-hustled, especially on defense, allowing Northwestern to shoot 50%. For every good offensive play, there were 32 bad defensive ones that set MSU back and allowed Northwestern’s lead to grow. MSU’s young guys were clearly tripped up by the offense run by the Wildcats.  It was a frustrating game to watch, to say the least.

However, I’m not panicking. I think the biggest take away from this loss is that MSU is still young, and losing this game was a reminder that our margin for error in the Big Ten is slim. That thought was the theme of Izzo’s post game press conference. The Big Ten is the deepest conference in college basketball this year and though Michigan State started off hot – that can change in an instant. There was much to be learned from this game, and as MSU heads into a tough remaining schedule (vs. Ohio State twice, vs. UofM twice, at Indiana and more), I can only hope that they continue to grow into the team we’ve already seen glimpses of.

On to the Boat.

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

The Boat Report: We’re Still Alive

It’s time for the first boat report of the 2011-2012 season! You will now be able to rest at night. I’m sure many of you have been up, refreshing your browser since the ending of the Duke game.

Where do we stand at this point?

Not bad, Not Great: I’m not mad that we currently sit at 0-2. I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that I had very low expectations for how this team would perform on a boat and in Madison Square Garden. I was pleasantly surprised at some of the things that I saw. OBVIOUSLY we have huge turnover, foul, and shooting issues right now. The Duke game nearly got away from us in ridiculous fashion. But what’s standing out most of all for this squad is their FIGHT. Remember last year at MSG? When Syracuse basically laughed us out of the building because we appeared to forget how to play? Yeah, I saw none of that and am very glad. On to the status…

Captain of the Boat: Draymond Green. It is more than evident that he will be the leader on this team. He’s vocal, plays tough, and it appears that the rest of the team looks to him for a pick-me-up and some intensity when they are in a slump. Leadership was one of the things the squad lacked last year, and it looks like Day Day is going to do all he can to make sure he is the go-to-guy this year. My only gripe thus far is his continued need to shoot from long range. Unnecessary. Yes, he is good for a couple of those every year, but it is more than evident that is not his strong point. Get down low. Fight for the ball. And impose your will on anyone who gets in your way. He’s had some shooting woes thus far, but I think if he goes to the basket instead of trying to shoot from outside, that will improve greatly.

NO MORE LONG RANGE SHOTS! (Photo: Freep.com)

Tri-First Mates: I have decided we will have three first mates today. Originally I had two, but it’s my birthday so I do what I want. This honor goes to Brandon Wood, Branden Dawson, and Keith Appling. First – no more guys named Brandon/Branden/Brandan allowed on the team. Second, what a HUGE pick up Wood is for this team. With 15 points vs. Duke, he could ignite the offense in games to come. Plus, I think he’ll become a leader once he plays a couple more games with this team. Too bad he is a senior.
Brandon Dawson is a beast. While he only scored 9 points on Tuesday, his athletic abilities were evident. Impressive talent. He will be a force to be reckoned with very soon.
Keith Appling needs to be addressed as well. He’s clearly not as comfortable in the point guard role, but he still managed to score a career high 22 points. Biggest gripe here? Unnecessary fouls! It’s a common theme with this group: play aggressive but don’t get in foul trouble.

Appling: Still has a baby face. (Photo: Freep.com)

Responsible for Handing out Lifeboats: Travis Trice. Can we talk about how good of a point guard he is going to be? I cannot wait until Big Ten season. That’s when I’m predicting we’ll see Trice in a permanent point guard role and can lead this team. It’s obvious that’s where his talents lie.

Clinging to the Boat: Adreian Payne. It is quite obvious that the Spartans are incredibly short on centers this year. Payne could certainly be what they need in that spot, but talk about someone who cannot shy away from Stupid Fouls. Michigan State as a team is going to be a STRONG rebounding team, and Payne is a huge contributor to that with 12 rebounds on Tuesday. However, fouling out and scoring only two points leaves some things to be desired.

Sending out an S.O.S.: Russell Byrd. Now would be a good time for Byrd to be around with his strong perimeter shooting. However, all reports indicate that he’s having a hard time coming back from 1 billion foot surgeries. He has some conditioning issues and can’t take the shots he’s used to. He needs to get stronger mentally so that having a bad practice does not knock him out of the game entirely like it did on Tuesday.

ON THE ICEBERG FOR ALL ETERNITY: NIX AND THORNTON. Look. I want to give Derrick Nix a chance. I promise that I do. But when he looks like a giant bumbling bear who’s never touched a basketball before, I’m going to have a problem. I know he was upset after the game and took responsibility for what happened, but it’s not good enough yet. Better get a scarf because it’s looking like a long season ahead for you.
I do not even want to talk about Austin Thornton because hearing his name makes me want to yell out with a firey rage, but can we PLEASE stop pretending that he’s good at ball handling??? HE IS NOT. He’s a walking turnover machine!! Better sharpen your ice pick because you’ll have plenty of time for making ice sculptures on your permanent hiatus on the iceberg.

Next Game: Instead of traveling to Maui and dying of cramps, the Spartans have elected to create their own tournament called the Spartan Invitational and will play Texas Southern tonight at 6.30. Izzo says this is a really physical team, so we’ll see what happens!



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

Boat Status: Permanently ejected

As you may know, Korie Lucious (#34) has been suspended for the remainder of the season from the Michigan State Spartans basketball team.

Man, we talkin' about PRACTICE?

Earlier in the season, Lucious pled guilty to reckless driving after being charged with DUI, was suspended last year for missing class, and has generally been a tiny pain-in-the-ass off the court. [And not so good on the court, to be honest.] Some theories on the reason for his suspension:

1. Another drinking/drugs issue

2. General insubordination

3. Some other sort of legal quandry

4. Being a turnover machine.

Lucious was heir apparent to Kalin Lucas as starting point guard, but his position looks questionable following the suspension, and Keith Appling’s brilliant play so far this season. Farewell Lucious. You were the tiniest Spartan, and we will never forget how you hoisted us upon your tiny shoulders.

And we’ll always have Maryland.


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