Tuesday, January 17, 2012

On Michigan State at Michigan tonight...

It should be the most intriguing matchup between the schools in a number of years. The first couple editions of the Wolverines under John Beilein seemed intimidated by the Spartans. Last season changed that. The Spartans just weren't as tough as they normally are, physically or in regard to competitive character. They have reverted back to usual form this season. The Spartans have presented much more consistent effort and are way better defensively. It was an odd last season. There were several players, who had taken the Spartans to the Final Four on multiple occasions, who just didn't play well, or were hurt. This season, the fresh legs of youth have greatly benefited the Spartans. Tom Izzo's usual messages didn't get through last season. They are again. Izzo is a truly great coach. That can't be underscored enough. Michigan won both meetings last season. Undoubtedly the Spartans won't come out flat tonight. They will be ready.
I underestimated Beilein. Initially, I didn't think he was a good fit at Michigan. Too much perimeter game at a place where they can recruit premium athletes. To his credit, Beilein has adjusted. He also understands the emotional pitch for this particular game. His team was decidedly ready for it last season, and I fully expected the Wolverines to be tonight, too.
The best matchup will be Michigan freshman point guard Trey Burke against MSU sophomore PG Keith Appling. I hope they are guarding each other night.
I can't even begin to tell you how impressed I am with Burke. He is, in my opinion, the best college player in this state - and that says a lot when it's considered there is his teammate Tim Hardaway Jr., Ray McCallum at Detroit, Draymond Green and Appling at MSU and Oakland's Reggie Hamilton.
The improvement Appling has made can't underestimated, however. I would hardly be shocked if he has a big game tonight and takes it to Burke.



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