For a fan of the game, there is no better feeling than watching a game played on a very high level by both squads on the floor.
As a fan of a team, there’s no better thrill than watching your team fighting tooth and nail in the midst of that game, while more than holding their own against a fearsome opponent.
So let me apply the defibrillator to jump-start my jitter bug heart before I tell you about the final four matchup between Michigan State and UConn.
[lights flicker briefly]
OK, I’m back.
First off I’d like to point out the obvious fact the UConn is damn good. Their triumvirate of low post beasts (Thabeet, Robinson, Adrien) with their incredible ability to disrupt the interior both offensively and defensively, make them unlike any other team in America.
I’ve watched them a number of times this season, and I’ve always been impressed with their consistent high level of play, even in losses.
The imposing front line scored 45 points, grabbed 26 rebounds, and swatted six shots between them, and proved to be everything as advertised. They are GOOD man, and have my utmost respect.
But that’s what makes Michigan State’s success against them even more impressive.
Tom Izzo may have now coached two perfect games in succession, first orchestrating a masterful high zone offense against Louisville, and now unleashing the run and gun to keep UConn’s big men out of the their set defense, and putting the game in the hands of his outstanding back court.
And man did they deliver.
Behind a brand of athleticism that the whole nation has to believe in now, they out-ran the Huskies down the court, again and again, running their sets to perfection, and playing lock-down backcourt defense, while battling on the boards from all angles.
Coach Izzo went 11 deep, and was able to spread fouls among his big men to force UConn to earn anything they got from the line. The tactic worked beautifully as the Huskies shot 63 percent from the stripe and were denied many of the easy hoops that they’ve become accustomed to over the course of their impressive run.
State received important minutes from many players, from the resurgent of Raymar Morgan with 18 points and nine boards, to the tough play and timely shooting of Draymond “Dancing Bear” Green, to another masterful defensive performance by Travis Walton, to the 21 clutch points from their floor general Kalin Lucas.
For all of the media attention on Goran Suton after his excellent regional performance, Tom Izzo used him completely differently, asking him to merely board and defend rather than running the offense through him.
And if you consider the important contributions of freshman Korie Lucious, and reserve guard Durrell Summers, whose thunderous dunk over Stanley Robinson left me absolutely apoplectic, I can’t remember seeing this type of total team effort since another Spartan team back in 2000 was making a run.
State proved that there are other ways to take Thabeet’s defensive presence out of the game other than relying on foul trouble.
Though early in the game UConn blocked a number of Spartan shots, in the second half particularly, MSU’s relentless screening and fast break offense left their big men out of position and unable to contend the wide-open looks that the speed-up offense was generating.
It was a masterstroke by a coach whose ability to game-plan against an opponent’s weakness may be the absolute best in the business.
So here we are and this Spartan team seems to be getting better and better, clearly outplaying two number one seeds from the formidable Big East and showing skill, size, athleticism and speed.
Do you believe now?
Whoever they get in the final game on Monday might want to start watching some film on these guys, because the overwhelming national sentiment leading up to this game that pegged them as a semi-skilled team is starting to look not only suspect, but absolutely moronic.
In the mean time, we’ve got ourselves a Sparty Party on our hands and a shot at a national title.
Do you believe now?