Michigan State impressed in their opening game of the Big Ten Tournament tonight, defeating Northwestern … Quick thoughts about the game and moving forward are:
1. Michigan State dominated the game from the tip. The golden question is: did MSU dominate because Northwestern stinks or because they are rounding into the team everyone thought they could be? I’d say a little of both. MSU isn’t going to dominate another game in the Big Ten Tournament like they did tonight against Northwestern no matter how good they play. The competition will be much tougher. However, the way they performed tonight will make them tough to beat. Dawson played great, looks fresh, and adds toughness, defense, and rebounding to the Spartans. Also, the shooters looked great, shooting over 40% from three.
2. Dawson looks as fresh and healthy as he ever has. The injury to Dawson may be a blessing in disguise for the young man this season. It seems like the rest has rejuvenated his legs and effort. Dawson was stellar tonight, he scored 16 points and was 1 rebound away from a double-double. He did that shooting 67% from the floor. Also, with him on the floor MSU is finally the tough team that Izzo has made his living with in his career. The Spartans have out rebounded their oppenents by an average of 4 rebounds per game since his return. He has led the team in rebounding 3 of the 4 games. They out rebounded Northwestern by 16: 40-24. The Spartans also had 8 blocks compared to 1 for Northwestern.
3. Adreian Payne needs to get back on track. In the last 4 games Payne is only averaging 11.5 points per game, down from his season average of 16.1 points per game. AP only had 5 points on 8 shots tonight, he also had 4 turnovers. He will need to be the dominant center that he can be for MSU to make a deep tournament run to the final four. Personally, I would like the team to make more of an asserted effort to get him the ball on the block. He has great post moves, and MSU settles into a jump shooting team too often. They shot 19 threes tonight.
4. Keith Appling needs to attack attack attack! His lack of aggressiveness effects the other players, for every action their is an equal and opposite reaction. With Appling being less aggressive offensively, Harris has been forced to shoot tougher shots. Harris needs to be more shot selective, but Appling needs to create shots for both himself and Harris. If Appling can just show the willingness to shoot the open three it will create driving lanes for him, and give Harris more open looks. Recently Harris has been a high volume shooter, which eventually will nip you in the butt. Harris took 12 shots to score 13 points tonight. Harris will need to be a more efficient scorer if MSU makes it to the Final Four.