Healthy Spartans Show Glimpse of What Regular Season Could Have Been With Domination of the Wolverines
Bankers Life Fieldhouse
There are a lot of different analogies you could use to describe the Michigan State Spartans 69-55 victory over arch rival Michigan today, but perhaps this situation calls for brevity. In that spirit we simply declare it a simple beat down.
The Michigan State Spartans were a team that was supposed to be playing on the last day of the Big Ten Tournament for a #1 seed. They weren’t. They were the ones who were supposed to be the nation’s darling, but they weren’t. They were the ones who were supposed to have won the regular season crown. Instead all of those things were being bandied about for their rival. Well at least until after the game.
But sports are funny. They operate in the real world and there is no entitlement in March in college basketball. After having lost the regular season Big Ten title to Michigan and having lost both contests (in East Lansing and Ann Arbor) this season they got Branden Dawson back. That was the difference.
How big was the return of the Spartans version of Super Man? Wolverine star Glenn Robinson III said, “I mean, I’ve played against Branden many times. He’s a great player, especially for them to have him back, he did a lot for their team. We knew his big thing was offensive rebounding, and we had to keep him off the glass. We needed to do a better job at that. But he really gave them a spark on offense and defense, I thought. He played well, and as far as attacking him, I just tried to get downhill a couple times. I didn’t finish a lot, but I just did what I could.”
Even the ever classy Michigan head coach John Beilein couldn’t deny the Spartans rising stock as their health improves. He cited two reasons for Michigan State and their resurgence. “Two things are happening: Number one, they’re getting healthy, right, and number two, you get those guys back and they’re healthy, that doesn’t mean you’re immediately better the next day. That means it takes time to get timing down, to get guys ready. There’s a lot of work that goes into this thing.”
He went on to add, “So those things, I think, have been happening over the last two or three weeks where they’ve had ups and downs as they got healthy. But their timing in this tournament, you can see by the gravity of their wins. Wisconsin is a pretty good team, and they did the same thing to Wisconsin they did to us.”
Dawson himself didn’t want to talk about his game. Instead he focused on the rivalry saying, “I was ready to play against those guys, and being a guy from Indiana, coming in my first year I wasn’t familiar with the whole Michigan and Michigan State rivalry. But once it grew on me, then I started to come in, and my teammates pushed me. I just felt good out there, and we played great.”
Dawson had 15 points and six rebounds, but made a major impact on the defensive end as well. While out injured the Spartans suffered in switching from defending player to another depending on the offensive adjustment and today they did it seamlessly. At times Dawson could have been channeling his inner Peyton Manning crying, “Omaha” as he called time and time again for his team to adjust.
Keith Appling told me after the game, “It really was big. At Michigan State we win with defense. Period. Coach tells you that in recruiting and every day. When B.J. come back and can make those calls and those switches it prevents scoring and every time you do that, it is just like scoring.”
So now the Spartans prepare. They are headed to Spokane, WA for a Thursday tilt on TNT against the #13 seed Delaware. The Spartans earned a #4 seed. The time for Izzo is now. This is what Spartan basketball is all about.
They told us before the year that this was a national championship or bust team. CLICK HERE TO SEE FOR YOURSELF. Now is the time they prove it. They have the talent and they have the coach. Now it is time to simply do it.
Look out Texas; the Spartans are on their way.