Finally. We have finally seen the team we’re supposed to see in back-to-back games. To say that the Michigan State basketball team has been inconsistent is to say that the Detroit Pistons are a bad basketball team. Both are understatements of epic proportions.
Slow starts, rookie mistakes by freshmen, rookie mistakes by veterans, the inability to put the ball in the basket when the entire point of basketball is to put the ball in the basket more times than the other team; all things that have led to the preseason No. 4 team in America to unranked before the new year.
While none of their losses are egregious, this team was supposed to be elite, not 0-2 in the Big Ten.
The flaws were obvious. Normally when a team’s shooting goes cold, the strategy is to go inside for easy buckets. This team doesn’t have offensive output from post players (all I want for Christmas is a full-strength Jaxon Kohler) so when shooting goes cold, there’s no escape but to keep shooting. The more shots that don’t go in, maybe you grip the ball a little tighter on the next shot, causing a miss, causing you to grip a little more and so on and so forth. Quicksand.
But how different would you feel if the Spartans were doing this at the end of January/beginning of February? It’s like clockwork where even Izzo’s best teams go through a mid-season slump that makes every fan question if this team is even tournament-worthy only for them to go on a deep run.
My classic example is the 2014-15 season. From Jan. 17 to Feb. 7, the Spartans went 3-3 which included a beatdown loss at No. 14 Maryland, a two-point loss to a team that only won five conference games that season, and capped off by a loss at home against an Illinois team that would go on to lose in the first round of the NIT. I vividly remember watching that game on a treadmill at the gym with a friend next to me. I turned to him and said, “I don’t think this team makes the tourney.” That team went on to the Final Four.
In the totality of the season, just about every non-elite team will hit a slump. The Spartans usually wait for the end of January but looking at the schedule, they have a good chance to break that trend, so why not have those growing pains and doubts as far from the postseason as possible?
There was an immense amount of pressure on this team from fans and media, most of it warranted since the talent on this team is undeniable. But talent alone cannot win championships. Whether we like it or not, there are still some growing pains that this team needs to go through in order to better each other. The football team did them no favors by starving us of quality sports so any inkling of failure by the basketball team is seen as a total letdown.
As of right now, we are only through 33 percent of the season. You know who looked awful four games into the football season? Alabama. They had quarterback issues including benching the season starter, a loss at home, close wins to inferior opponents, and a fan base who I’m sure had no hope for the playoff. Now look at them.
So, as much as we live and die by every game and impetuously fire off sarcastic tweets, we need to be comfortable with the uncomfortable much like this team, because that’s where the real personal growth happens. Izzo owes us nothing, so wait to see what he has in store for the rest of the season before calling for his replacement.