Tom Izzo is well known for his winning tradition in the month of March. The stats speak for themselves. However, this year has been different from the rest. MSU has never had to experiment with its rotation as much as this year. Gary Harris. Keith Appling. Adreian Payne. Branden Dawson. Matt Costello. That is a quality starting lineup any way one slices it. They were all gone for varying times and in varying degrees all throughout the season. MSU had to scour the bench for replacements. The results were disheartening to say the least.
Two losses to Michigan. A loss to Nebraska at home. A loss to Georgetown. A loss to UNC. Ouch. Not to mention losses to Wisconsin, Illinois, and finally Ohio State to end the season. The Spartans had quite the rough stretch and injuries were the main culprit. Then, came the Big Ten Tournament. No more experiments. No need for unproven replacements. No more uncertainty.
The Spartans easily defeated a subpar Northwestern team in the first round. Not too shocking, right? Bring on the Badgers. They went 0-1 against Wisconsin in the regular season. No reason for the Spartans to be favored. MSU ends up winning by 8. Finally, Michigan. Big Blue had owned Sparty both times they played in the regular season. Uh-oh.
Sparty started slow, but dominated the majority of the game. It ended, mercifully enough for Michigan, with a 14 point victory for the Spartans. Domination in the post. Perimeter defense that limited Nik Stauskas to a small handful of quality open shots. Michigan State took home the Big Ten postseason crown with relative ease, so it seemed at times, against two quality, ranked opponents.
Shortly thereafter, MSU became everyone’s dream team to win it all; the darling of the dance if you will. The expectations arrived overnight after the win against Michigan. Even the president took Sparty to win it all. Though I don’t disagree with the pundits, I wish no one would have told Michigan State. The Spartans can’t afford to assume victories without the subsequent effort and some luck. They can’t afford to get big-headed. Though the Spartans handled Delaware easily enough, there were some nail biting moments for Spartan fans.
Michigan State has to put on their lab coats and reinvent themselves. A new identity needs to be created for MSU. They’re not #1 or #2 anymore. They’re also not hobbled by unrelenting injuries and other hurdles. They are beyond all of that and it has made them that much stronger. They are hard workers, conquerors of obstacles, and proven winners when they are healthy and playing their best. The MSU-UM game showed that to the whole country. Now is the time to strike while the iron is hot.
Let us not forget, however, that it was the early panic, desperation, and experimentation that forged this team into its current state. They should keep that flexibility and adaptability in their new identity. In the end, there is only one identity the Spartans are looking to earn: 2014 National Champions. If Tom Izzo and the Spartans can retain their mad scientist nature, they have great potential. Limitless though? To infinity and beyond? Maybe. I think they can do it. That’s just me, what do you think? Let me know. Go Green!
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