Sunday afternoon’s dramatic victory over the No. 4 seed Maryland Terrapins proved a lot about the No. 5 seed Michigan State Spartans.
For one, the team showed great resiliency. After obtaining a big lead, blowing it in the last few minutes and then still pulling out the win, Sparty won a game it wouldn’t have won weeks ago.
It also revealed a new sense of “togetherness,” as coach Tom Izzo said after the game, which had been questioned in weeks prior. Durrell Summers stepped up in a big way, making three-point shots from all over the court. Draymond Green made a big shot and an even bigger pass late in the game to seal the deal.
But that new sense of camaraderie will be fully tested Friday night against the country’s new favorite Cinderella team, No. 9 seed Northern Iowa, as starting point guard and All-Big Ten player, Kalin Lucas, will likely miss the rest of the tournament due to a torn Achilles' tendon.
Korie Lucious will now take over the reigns as the starting point guard, a position which Lucas has possessed since coming in as a freshman in 2007. Lucious hit the game-winner against Maryland with no time remaining, but Northern Iowa will be a different test.
Lucas and Lucious play the same position, but don’t necessarily play it the same way. Lucas is more of a facilitator, as he likes to get teammates more involved and take shots when he is open. Lucious, on the other hand, dribbles more often and seems more inclined to take shots.
Over the past two seasons, the Spartans’ playing style definitely changes as one player is in the game over the other. However, having Lucious as the starter may present unique challenges to the opposing teams in the tournament, especially against Northern Iowa.
Teams are more accustomed to seeing Lucas and studying more game tape of him rather than Lucious and maybe Izzo can somehow use this to the team’s advantage. Lucious has a scorer’s mentality and perhaps certain plays can be drawn up to utilize his specific skills.
Either way, Friday will be a battle similar to the ones against Maryland and No. 12 seed New Mexico State. Things are rarely ever easy in the NCAA tournament and going up against a team with absolutely nothing to lose is going to be a test of will and desire.
And who knows, it may just be Lucious’ coming-out party.