According to ESPN bracketologist (I love that this is a legit J-O-B!?) Joe Lunardi, as it stands right now (it updates every nanosecond), the much maligned Michigan State Spartans would be one of the “last four” teams in the NCAA tournament.
Which leads me to my first question…what?
Once I gather and compose myself, I then would have the unmitigated gall to follow up with a “how dare you!”
Seriously, I know the tournament is about “the green”, but as a die hard college basketball fanatic I believe that should refer to the color scheme, pride, tradition, and season performance of a tournament squad, rather than the money grab that’s about to benefit Spartan fans across the nation.
In my humble evaluation, to qualify for the NCAA tournament, this Spartans team needs to accomplish the unthinkable (to anyone that’s watched any of the games this season) and make it to Sunday in the Big 10 Tournament (BTT). That’s right, this team needs to win three straight games and get to the finals of the BTT to earn the respect of getting to the big dance.
Anything less would be uncivilized. Thank you Sir Charles.
Round mound of the rebound, the Spartans have NOT been this year, finishing 76th in the nation in the category that defines the Izzo program. Also un-Izzolike (the best word I could think of for this season), Michigan State finished 17-13 and claimed a piss poor No. 7 seed out of 11 teams in their own conference. This “tournament worthy team” also lost to Michigan twice, Penn State and took a shellacking to the mighty home court of the Iowa Hawkeyes. The Spartans limp into a once mammoth month of March finishing with a 5-7 clip over the last 12 games. Friends, this is not a tournament worthy basketball team.
Spartan fans clamoring for their last straw of tournament hope will state statistics like No. 10 in strength of schedule and an R.P.I ranking of 48. I believe myself to be one of the strongest supporters of playing a strong schedule.
It makes me proud that Izzo continually prides himself on grinding his squads into the ground with an early non-conference gauntlet playing the best teams in the country wherever and whenever they’ll have them. But, you have to win SOME of those games.
Easily, the best game to watch this year was the narrow defeat to then No. 1 Duke on the road early in the year. That’s right, the best Spartan effort this year is chalked up as a loss. Go figure.
This team just didn’t win enough games, plain and simple. You can excuse a team with a schedule like Michigan State for not winning 20 games. But, at some point, you have to have something that gives you an idea that a team is deserving of an elite postseason berth. The NCAA tournament is without a doubt the best sporting event of the year. Teams should earn getting there. This team just didn’t get it done.
Wins against Washington (also a disappointment this year), Wisconsin (great comeback, but still needed OT), Illinois and the loss against Duke are the only ground Spartan fans have to stand on.
If there is one thing in sports you cannot count on, it’s the people running the leagues. Time and time again, league offices are “taking the money and running.” That’s right, taking your money any way they can get it and running away from the integrity of the game. Let the constant and continually impending tournament expansion be a fabulous example of this pattern of disrespect and corporate greed polluting the passionate product on the court.
That leaves one man in charge of taking the power back. The one man Spartan fans have been able to count on over and over again. A man that can snatch victory from the jaws of defeat with one move. One very unpopular, but crucially necessary decision.
Tom Izzo should, if invited, decline the NCAA tournament Invitation.
Allow that to sink in, before you hit me with a “how dare you.” Let’s be rational here…
1. Barring an unforeseen BTT tournament run this team doesn’t deserve to be in the NCAA tournament by any measure. The NCAA wants the Spartan name, not the Spartan 2011 performance.
2. Stick it to the greedy suits who are continuing to water down the best event in sports with continual tournament expansion. Izzo was using NCAA greed and contempt as an under-the-radar reason for possibly leaving MSU this summer, although I suspect that was kind of like the “it’s not you, it’s me” paradigm.
3. Pull the rug under Durrell Summers last gasp for NBA dreams. This guy was going to go pro last year? What a joke. You don’t try, you don’t dance! I don’t want him to never have success in the NBA…just not NEXT year. (this is collateral damage, not a reason to make a decision)
4. Set a standard of excellence for incoming recruits. This is an elite program that only tolerates a hard-working blue collar ethics and demands results.
5. To my knowledge, he would be the first to do this, and it could give coaches more power in how the brackets shake out. The power should be in the hands of the suits on the court, rather than the suits off the court looking in. A coach should be able to veto. Izzo could lead the charge. This is an opportunity to be an innovator of integrity.
This season has been hard to swallow on many accounts. Even while writing this I can’t help but feel for Kalin Lucas. I’ve watched him try to throw this team on his shoulders and lead them to victory, yet it just didn’t all add up this season. In the Michigan game, he was obviously not shooting the ball well, but still managed to will his way to 23 second half points, again to no avail. His return from a devastating injury that has taken lives away from lesser athletes has been nothing short of heroic.
I would also feel for the Dancing Bear who has also shed blood, sweat and tears this season. Although, he will be back and ultimately I believe he’d be better off for the harsh, welcome to the “real world” head coach led example.
You might think I’m a traitor. As I type this in my cloistered, box, fourth floor NYC apartment, I am wearing all Michigan State gear. My Dick Vitale autographed Izzone megaphone from the Duke blowout in the Breslin Center of 2003 and Tom Izzo signed basketball are well within view. I literally went on a Tourette’s syndrome tirade, followed by a trail of tears following the Michigan game this weekend or as I viewed it—the end of the season.
I don’t want to see Michigan State’s 13-year NCAA appearance streak end more than anyone else. I just think everything in life should be earned and want the Spartans to earn it. Not a bunch of suits in an ivory tower looking to capitalize on the Michigan State name.
I just don’t see the point of eking into the tournament only to further embarrass the pride and tradition of the program. Make a statement that this isn’t acceptable and pull the plug while this thing has life. Perhaps, it’s just an intermission that will re-energize Izzo and the troops for years to come. I see a tremendous opportunity to learn and grow from an incredibly disappointing situation.
End the season with Michigan State integrity. Don’t let the NCAA money grab the bacon off your sweaty season battled backs Spartan fans!
Earlier this year on the football side of things, Mark Dantonio displayed the balls of a champion with one of the gutsiest calls in Michigan State history when he called a fake field goal with the game on the line. And the Spartans were Big 10 champions for the first time in a long time.
The integrity of the program is on the line this time around. Barring the unforeseen run I detailed earlier, the team failed. Everyone knows it. I want Izzo to be the one that pulls the plug on the 2010-2011 season. It may not be the win you’re looking for, but every other losing scenario is much worse and lets the internal bleeding continue.
They’re not all winners, kid.
If you thought this drivel was delightful…check out my blog at www.ryanczerfas.blogspot.com
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