MSU vs Kansas : It Was 30 Years Ago Today, and Magic Taught The World to Play
As images of grown men in short shorts throwing down monster dunks while sporting porn-star mustaches flashed on my TV late last night, the reasons why the 2008 Spartan basketball team is ready to cut down some nets in Motown became radiantly clear.
Watching the replay of the 1979 Championship taught me that this year was meant to be. These 2008 Spartans are ready for an epic battle today against defending national champion Kansas.
Today marks the 30th anniversary to the day that college basketball grew up. I don't need to rehash the game, but you should definitely watch it again on BTN if you get the chance. Greg Kelser was a monster. Mike Brkovich was the man with the ugliest name and the most beautiful pull-up and pop.
It's way too early to look beyond the Kansas game tonight (at 9:37 EST). Sure, State earlier this season put the beatdown on those birds, leading 37-18 at the half and showing the weakness of a two-man game against a multi-headed hydra of a basketball machine like MSU (see here for reference).
Just ask University of Michigan coach John Beilein and players Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims how the Spartans play against a two-man game (see here for reference).
Sure, the experts seem to think that Kansas is not the same team and has totally matured since their loss, somehow acting as though MSU has existed in a state of suspended hibernation that whole time.
Sure, the experts emphasize how young Kansas is compared to last year's national champion team, also seemingly oblivious to the equally young MSU team (Draymond Green, Delvon Roe, and Korie are all frosh, while Chris Allen, Durrell Summers, and even Big Ten Player of the Year Kalin Lucas are just wet-behind-the-ears sophs).
Michigan State has home court advantage in this one. They just played the Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis, they won their 2000 National Championship in Indy, and Magic Johnson and company beat Digger Phelps' Notre Dame in the Mideast (yes, that's right, not in Dubai) Regional Final on their way to the 1979 Championship.
Plus, Indy is an easy drive for Spartans from Michigan, Ohio (many Spartans are Ohioans), Chicago, and beyond. This is Big Ten Country.
This game will be rough. Nearly 60 fouls were called in the first matchup. Izzo should be running charging drills all week. I'd line my players up and drive a Harley Davidson at them blaring some Metallica. If they move, they don't play in the game. Get Sharon, Sally, Sherry Collins (or whatever his name is) to foul out in frustration driving the lane.
Is anyone not drinking the Cole Aldrich Kool-Aid? He's a fine player, but remember his last game was against Dayton, who shot 21 percent from the field. Their biggest inside threats were guys who averaged about three points and three rebounds a game.
In a similar matchup against Robert Morris, Goran "War In Eastern Bloc Countries Can't Hold Me Down" Suton grabbed 16 rebounds, 12 in the first half alone. This Spartan senior has played in four NCAA Tournaments and was on Bosnia's national team at the age of 14 during the Bosnian War. Do you think he's ready for battle? Do you think he can dig deep in crunch time?
Kansas had their shining moment (which, for the record, I think is kind of a poof song and tradition for the Tourney) last year, and though I think it's a year early for MSU, many of the chips are falling in their favor. They remind me very much of the 1979 team.
You want motivation? Let's talk Motor City motivation. I was born in Michigan, but like many, have bolted for the sunnier climes of California. In this mess the Republicans cooked up and called an "economy," kind of like McDonald's calls some menu items "healthy," who do you think is struggling the most?
Believe me, it's not Wall Street money managers that have had income declines from seven figures to the high sixes. It's Detroit, plain and simple.
Detroit is a great city with great people, and those people would love nothing more than to welcome their green-clad boys home and give them a weekend of joy like hasn't been seen in that town for a long time. Even some Wolverine fans, deep down, would be happy.
It can act almost like a miniature Olympics a la Beijing, although I think Detroit's air quality is still better, especially this time of year. These Spartans can win these games for a lot more than just themselves.
This season has been a huge struggle for State. I can't think of a season where I've seen MSU fight so hard to win games. Some may say that shows weakness. I believe that great success can only be truly enjoyed after great effort. Izzo has kept this team on a steady incline all year.
Every game, another individual rises to the occasion and becomes that man who, by the combined hard-nosed effort of his team, reaches deeper inside himself and finds the guts and composure to ensure the win.
This steady improvement, game after game, inch by inch, and shot by shot could and should culminate and peak at the exact moment Izzo climbs the ladder in Motown. I don't expect anything from this team, I only wish them strength and power to accomplish more than they have already with composure and class.
But for now, we ought to get some rest and go about today with fire in our bellies and blood in our eyes, for tonight, Kansas dines in hell.
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