Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Beyond the Rivalry

Greetings friends!

One of my goals for 2012 is to blog every week. Given that this is my first post and it's the middle of January, I'd say I'm off to a rocky start.

But fear not! I'm committing to it AT LEAST once per week from now until the end of the tournament.

As of right now, all I can think about is last night's horrid Michigan-Michigan State game. And I mean horrid because of my dismay at the way my favorite team played. All the other factors were there: a great crowd, two teams coming off losses and fighting for position in the Big Ten, two great coaches, bragging rights...the stakes were high.

My initial thoughts on the match-up were that MSU would have to contain Trey Burke on the penetration, defend the 3 and rebound their faces off. I figured they had so much size on the inside that State's bigs would eat UM for lunch.

Safe to say that didn't happen.

I applaud the Spartans for fighting back and grabbing the lead late in the second half--whatever mistakes they had made previously wasn't enough for them to give up on the game. And I LOVED that. But for most of the game, I didn't love what I saw.

Overall, I felt like Michigan played to WIN and MSU played not to lose. Their defense (in both the loss to Northwestern and to Michigan) was spotty, their shot selection was very poor and they were extremely soft inside. I give a lot of credit to Michigan as well. They're tough, they're scrappy and they NEVER give up....that tenacity has won them a lot of games regardless of how they match up with the other team on paper.

(Oh and P.S. Denard? THAT'S what it's like when a Michigan team beats Michigan State. Figured I would point it out since you have no idea what that feels like. ZING!! Sorry, I had to.)

Here's the bottom line: Rivalry aside, I was really disappointed with State's performance on the whole. I don't mind losing if you give it everything you have and it just doesn't go your way (i.e. the UNC and Duke games). I mind losing when it's a game like that. As I said before, I love the way they fought back, but at that point it was too little, too late. And what really irks me? The fact that a win like that would have put them at the TOP of the Big Ten allllll alone....but the loss brings them into a 4 way tie for first. And it only gets murkier from here on out.

I am confident though that the coaches AND the players are unhappy with back to back losses. I am also confident that they'll all come out guns blazing.

At the beginning of the season, I never expected anyone to make it through the Big Ten undefeated. The league is too good and home court advantage holds too much weight. I walked around confidently predicting that while we would be better than the media gave credit for (see previous entries), the real different maker in the league would be those people that can 1.) Protect their home court and 2.) sneak out a couple of road wins anywhere possible. Since MSU stole one up at Wisconsin (and I admit, I NEVER thought that would happen until it did), I feel slightly better about things.

But at this point, in order to contend, MSU HAS to win out at home and will need to steal a victory from Illinois, and any combo of Indiana, Purdue and Ohio State.

Only time will tell.