Michigan State's Kalin Lucas Readies National Runner-Up for Next March Marathon
It is widely assumed among the masses that past occurrences are a good predictor for future successes. Of course, that notion has to be taken with a grain of salt.
But the general rationale remains. Set the bar high, attain it and raise it.
For Kalin Lucas, that “bar” constituted the runner-up finish in last year’s NCAA Tournament.
So if the above sentiment is any indication of how the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year is set to perform next season, one would be wise to take a gander—and pay heed—to the words NFL Star Terrell Owens made famous:
“Get your popcorn ready, because it’s going to be a show.”
Last season, Lucas led the Spartans to their eleventh Big Ten Title, while also guiding them to a school-record 8-1 mark in conference play. In addition to showing superb leadership, Kalin also demonstrated his ability to fill up the stat sheet by leading the team in scoring (14.7 ppg), field goals made (173) and attempted (438), free throws made (172) and attempted (213), assists (4.6 ppg) and minutes (31.9 mpg).
The season-long success helped steer MSU to a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, where they proceeded to craft some cinderlla-esque magic and make a deep run into March.
They cruised by first-round opposition Rob Morris and survived a meek scare from the team in Southern California before meeting their first tough test: Kansas.
In that game, Lucas provided the Spartans with a veteran performance, netting 18 points, seven assists and four steals with just two turnovers. That last stat is by far the most impressive of the bunch, as it illustrated his ability to keep cool and manage a game effectively under intense pressure against a very tough opponent.
But in perhaps his most notable play of the entire tournament, Lucas drove the lane with 47 seconds left in the game—knotted at 60 apiece—and proceeded to make a tough running jumper, all while being fouled. The play resulted in an “And-1” and as well the winning basket. ESPN Senior College Basketball Writer Andy Katz rewarded Lucas with the coveted National Player of the Week Honors.
In their next matchup against a very tough Lousiville team, Lucas chipped in admirably with ten points and five assists. His efforts enabled the Spartans to reach the National Semifinal against a phenomenal Connecticut team.
As coaches will tell you, stars show up in big games, and certainly Kalin Lucas did just that. Up against the likes of defensive-goliath Hasheem Thabeet and company, Lucas put up a gallant 21 points and five assists, shooting 47 percent from the field and 50 percent from beyond the arc. There’s no doubt that his speed, leadership and perseverance helped put the Spartans over the edge and into the title game.
A familiar foe was in store for Michigan State in the National Championship: the team from Chapel Hill who had dethroned them four months earlier. Although the final score was closer than their first meeting, the outcome remained the same - a Michigan State loss. However, Lucas did everything in his power to give State a fighting chance in the game, managing 14 points and seven assists.
Certainly the season was not a disappointment for the men decked in green and white; merely a heartbreaking loss for a team who had defeated all odds over the course of the tournament.
There is no doubt that the team's long voyage was a great learning tool in shaping Lucas' young career into the mold of an evolving superstar.
At the end of it all, Lucas brought home a barrage of hardware to commemorate his fantastic play over the course of the season. He won Big Ten Player of the Year honors, First-Team All-Big Ten honors, MSU MVP, Midwest Regional All-Tournament Team honors, and Final Four All-Tournament Team honors. He also was nominated as a finalist for the John R. Wooden award, handed out to the top collegiate athlete of the year in the sport.
But as any player would tell you, personal glory is nothing in comparison to team success. And the epitome of team success comes by way of cutting down the nets in March, something State came gravely close to accomplishing earlier this year, and a goal they are hopeful for in the season ahead.
With Lucas at the helm—one year older and wiser—their chances are looking as bright as the spotlight he’s grown accustomed to.
Get your popcorn ready.
Taylor Rummel is a writer for Bleacher Report
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