Successes and Struggles of the Michigan State Spartans This Season
Michigan State sits 13-3 atop the Big Ten with a two-game lead over Ohio State and Michigan.
They have won seven in a row and have blazed through those games winning by an average of 15 points per game.
They have the man I call the "Miracle Worker of March," Tom Izzo, to guide them through the conference tournament and the big dance.
Here's a recap of the ups and downs of the season.
Success and Struggle: Carrier Classic
Look ma! No roof!
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Success: Being invited to play in the game was a success in itself.
The Spartans might not have been ranked to start the season, but the invitation to the game made it well worth the trip.
The game between the No. 1 Tarheels of North Carolina might not have been the greatest of performances by the team, but the invitation was a result of many great years of college basketball, proving that the success from previous years pays off.
I'd love to see a rematch of this game next season—at the same location—outside.
Struggle: The Spartans allowed three Tarheels to get into double digits (Harrison Barnes 17 PTS, John Henson 12 PTS, Dexter Strickland 10 PTS) and could not get second get any second chance points.
They out-rebounded UNC 19-6 on the offensive glass but had little to show for it.
Draymond Green had 18 rebounds in the game, putting up the only double-double for the team with 13 points.
They were awful from beyond the arc, a mere 2-for-20 and shot 30.6 percent from the floor.
Green might have put up 13 points, but he took 19 shots in the game and only made six.
The game was a spectacle in itself—I'd love to see it again next year.
Success: Non-Conference Season
One of the Highlights of the non conference season, beating No. 22 Gonzaga
This was an all-around success.
They might not have won every game (11-2), but they played well in every one.
They were 1-2 in this stretch, but a seven point win at No. 22 Gonzaga gave the team confidence heading into conference play.
The 35-point win over Texas Southern on November 18 was the first of the season for the Spartans, and the first win in their season-long 15-game winning streak.
Another good win in that stretch was a 16 point victory over Florida State—the same Florida State that shocked us all by beating No. 3 North Carolina by 33 points.
Looking at the teams they played in the stretch, they were not the greatest, but the way they played—and the fight they showed in these games—proved that this team was not going to struggle like its 0-2 start suggested.
I'd like to see a tougher non-conference schedule next year.
Big East opponents, or maybe an SEC team or two.
More than three ranked teams would make the Spartans look much better on paper.
Success: Start of Conference Play
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The first four games of Big Ten play were all wins for Sparty.
They opened up with a 15-point win over IU, a team that has far exceeded expectations this season.
Nebraska came next and the Spartans gave them another loss, winning that game 68-55. Draymond Green led the way with 19 points and eight rebounds.
Michigan State went into the Kohl Center to take on the Badgers next, a place that is very difficult to win at.
The Badgers and Spartans went at it all game long, and the largest lead for either team was Sparty by seven.
With 36 seconds left, the Badgers took advantage of a Spartan drought and tied the game at 50.
Michigan State went scoreless the last 2:30 of regulation, but somehow found a way to win. They couldn't stop Jordan Taylor as he put up a game-high 28 points, but the team worked together and came away with the victory.
Basketball hasn't been the forte of Iowa in recent years, and Michigan State proved that with a 34-point win against the Hawkeyes on January 10—the only meeting of the two teams this season.
This was the last win of the 15 game streak for the Spartans, who had five players reach double figures—Draymond Green 22; Keith Appling 15; Brandon Wood 12; and Travis Trice and Derrick Nix each adding 10.
Struggle: January 14-17
When No. 7 Michigan State traveled to Northwestern on January 14, the score was 74-81.
The Spartans had only two players in double figures compared to four for Northwestern, two of which had 20-plus points.
The Spartans shot just 63 percent from the free throw line in this game.
If they had hit more from the stripe, it would have been a completely different scenario down the stretch, but Northwestern took the lead with six seconds left in the first half and never looked back.
Michigan is always a hard place to win, especially for Michigan State.
The Spartans took on the No. 19 Wolverines at Crisler Center and were handed another loss—their second in a row.
At this point, things in conference were starting to look a little bleak.
Their 4-0 start was washed away, turning into a 4-2 mark.
Michigan took the lead with 38 seconds left and never looked back.
In the last 30 seconds for the Spartans, they put up two shots and missed both of them.
Keith Appling put up a shot with :11 left that was blocked by Jordan Morgan. Brandon Wood got the ball off the block and gave it to Green, who missed a jumper just before the buzzer.
Michigan State left with a 15-4 record, ready to give up their top-10 ranking.
Reality Check: January 31
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After losing two straight, the Spartans headed into Champaign looking for their third win in a row.
Murphy's Law came into play as the team struggled from the floor hitting just 14 shots and shooting just 24.1 percent on the game.
This proved to everyone that the No. 10 Spartans were just as human as their movie counterparts from the film "300."
Draymond Green, who usually leads the team in scoring, put up just five points as the Spartans were handed their third loss in five games.
The Spartans put up a season-low 41 points in the loss to Illinois, but were helped by poor shooting from the Illini offense to keep them in the game.
With the team leaving Champaign with their third conference loss in tow, questions were rising about the team.
Luckily, the team led by Mr. Tom Izzo bounced back—and in a good way.
Success: Every Game Since
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At the moment, the Spartans are on a seven-game winning streak and seem to have learned from their mistakes at Assembly Hall on January 31.
They avenged their loss to Michigan the next game, and then continued with a win over Penn State.
Another signature win for the team was over the conference-leading Ohio State in Columbus on February 11.
At the time, OSU was ranked No. 3 in the ESPN/USA Today poll, while Spartans were ranked 12.
Michigan St. took the lead early, 11-10 in the first half, and never gave it up.
The win put the team one step closer to its goal of a Big Ten regular season championship.
The Badgers didn't put up much of a fight, with the Spartans sweeping the season series against Wisconsin 69-55 on February 16 in East Lansing.
The team continued with wins over Purdue, Minnesota and Nebraska to extend their streak to seven games.
With a little help from Michigan (losing to Purdue) and Ohio State (losing to Wisconsin and Michigan), they now have a two-game lead with only two games left to play during the regular season.
What's to Come for This Spartan Team
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The Spartans have two games left—and a two game lead—in the Big Ten Conference.
With a win at Indiana, or at home against Ohio State, the Spartans will clinch the top spot in the conference tournament.
Tom Izzo would love to add another conference championship to his resume.
Barring an embarrassment in their last two games or in Indianapolis, the Spartans have a No. 2 seed in the big dance, at least.
If the Spartans win out and make it to the finals in the conference championship, I see the Spartans guaranteeing themselves a No. 1 seed at the big dance.
There is also the "Izzo Factor" that must be taken into consideration for Michigan State teams playing in the month of March.