Wednesday, February 23, 2011

It wasn't pretty, but they got it done...

Greetings fellow bball lovers!

Being a Spartan fan is always a rollercoaster ride--the joy, the frustration, the heart conditions...and of course, this men's basketball season is no exception.

The past few games have been a perfect example--there was the crushing of Penn State, the close loss to Ohio State, a solid but hard-fought victory over Illinois and of course, last night's squeaker at Minnesota.

What baffles me is the consistency of their inconsistency, but part of me doesn't really care--as long as they find a way to get it done. I don't know it's if the improved health of Kalin Lucas, the emerging of the bench/freshmen or the sense of urgency that comes from the realization that they might not make the tournament, but overall, I finally see the desire to WIN. There were many times over the past couple of months I doubted it was still there, but lo and behold, apparently it was still bubbling (no pun intended-ha!) under the surface. THANK GOODNESS.

So let's start with some positives...

1.) Kalin Lucas: Ladies and Gentlemen, he's BACK--and not a moment too soon. In the games against Illinois and Minnesota, he's pretty much put the team on his back and kept them in the game. One of the anchors on SportsCenter made a comment that the Spartans are "a one man team." I don't necessarily agree with that 100%, but it does give me some comfort that when MSU is struggling offensively, he puts the ball in his hands and finds a way to score. I think it also helps the other guys--when defenses key on Lucas, it opens up more for them to find shots or crash the boards for those all-important offensive rebounds.

2.) Draymond Green has gone back to basics. As the Spartans have struggled this season, I felt like Green has tried to do too much. His heart is in the right place, but his head was WAY too in the game. Green made his name because he does all the little things--passing, rebounding, grabbing loose balls, being a vocal leader for the team. Because he did those things, his opportunities to score naturally arose. However, when the team was struggling, all that went out the window because he wanted to do it all--but when he does that it doesn't work. After the Penn State game (TRIPLE-DOUBLE!), he said the coaches had put together a reel that reminded him of why he is successful--being the Glue Guy. I think it's safe to say that with the exception of the occasional ill-advised 3 (and not every 3 he takes is ill-advised), the message came through.

3.) Bench contributions. I wonder if Mike Kebler and Austin Thornton ever expected this kind of weight on their shoulders late in the season. At first, it seemed like they may have been a little intimidated, or at least thrown off, by their role as major contributors. Regardless of that shaky start, it seems like they're getting more and more comfortable with it. And God bless Kebler for hitting those 2 free throws last night to seal the win at Minnesota! Additionally, the development of the freshmen and post players makes me REALLY happy. Appling is showing how he will be a big-time player--he stays cool under pressure, plays great defense and is quick with the ball. Payne and Sherman are also showing some great toughness and footwork down low. Even Derrick Nix has been stepping up and making plays--LOVE!

4.) Delvon Roe is a champion. His injuries have been well-documented...I even propose that we create a new scale of pain called "The Roe Threshold." A normal person has a scale of 1-10 for pain threshold. For Roe, a normal person's 10 is like his 5. So anytime a player gets injured, we can compare it on The Roe's a way higher standard. For example, a player gets a leg cramp? On a normal scale, that's like a 3...on the Roe Threshold it would be a 0. And of course, the only 10 on The Roe Threshold is something akin to amputation without anesthesia. The kid has more heart than anyone else I've seen this season...though, I wouldn't expect much less from a kid that walked into MSU with a giant Sparty face tattooed on his arm.
Those are all great things, right? Correct. But here are a few brief things that still concern me...

1.) Durrell Summers. I wish I could get all irritated because the media has been harping on his struggles...but I can't. He's a great player and we need him. I'm glad he got some points last night, because he's clearly all in his head right now...he was even missing LAYUPS. Poor kid. Get it together Durrell! We need you!

2.) Reaction to the zone. For some reason, zone defenses seem to bamboozle my beloved Spartans. If teams want to force MSU to beat them from the 3, the shooting percentages right now suggest that's a great strategy. Furthermore, the offense was SO anemic last night that about 75% of the team was afraid to shoot the ball. Yikes. I have faith in the coaching staff on that one though. Here's hoping...

3.) TURNOVERS...definitely improving, but they are still a bit too sloppy with the ball. I'm beginning to think wanting that to change is wishful thinking, of the best and worst things about being a Spartan is that we never lose hope...


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