Monday, January 21, 2013

And so atop the Big Ten standings, there sits Michigan State...

Keith Appling: Has become a terrific player
When the first college basketball polls came out, Indiana was the consensus No. 1 team in the country. Maybe Cody Zeller has not been the dominant presence his press clippings suggested he would be, but he has certainly proved to be one of the best players in the nation, if not the best. Disappointment? Not really. IU lost an emotional game to Butler and a Big Ten game to better-than-anticipated Wisconsin. The Hoosiers haven't been disappointing. Michigan and Ohio State were also viewed as potential Top 10 teams in the preseason. They haven't disappointed. The Wolverines, in particular, have been impressive. A 3-point shot from Trey Burke that went in and out at Ohio State away from being No.1, Michigan been better than advertised.
Yet, Michigan State is 5-1 and alone atop the Big Ten standings, albeit because the Spartans have played an extra conference game.
It was at home, rather than on the road, but the Spartans did beat Ohio State Saturday. They lost their Big Ten opener at Minnesota, and have kept winning since. Unlike Indiana (Zeller), Michigan (Burke) and OSU (DeShaun Thomas), MSU doesn't have a big star. Flash? Sizzle? Style? The Spartans have little in those areas. But it is nonetheless impressive the way the Spartans are winning. They are balanced in the floor, they crash the offensive boards and they play commando-style defense. In other words, Tom Izzo has gotten this team to fit into his classic mold relatively early.
Logic dicates this will be the week the Spartans take a step back. Road trips to Wisconsin Tuesday and Indiana Sunday seem ominous for MSU, but don't be surprised if the Spartans survive by winning a game, or thrive by winning two, this week. Style point have never been a strength for the Spartans under Izzo. It's about winning. The Spartans, despite their success in the past, are being overlooked, but they bring a lot to the table. They do have an inside post game. Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne have developed nicely. His first two seasons, Keith Appling was a wild card game-by-game for MSU. Not any more. The leadership aspect and consistency have emerged. Branden Dawson and Gary Harris are excellent players. As such, it wouldn't surprise me if the Spartans are ultimately the last team standing in this conference.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just the start of the Big Ten season ... going to be a long one to go.

There are 6-7 BT teams that can beat another at home.

You are correct, Pat, the Spartans do pound the boards, 39 rebounds per game and 39th in nation.

But I watched the Louisville vs. Syracuse game last w/e and those guys have big, big players that pound the ball and opponents. Really defensive. Just impressed.

I don't think the Big Ten has a brand on rough BB anymore, these national teams are getting tough, now.

5:11 PM 

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