Sunday, January 10, 2010

This Is Sparta!

Michigan State heads back home to the Breslin Center after their 71-53 victory on the road last night against Iowa. Junior guard Kalin Lucas had 14 for the Spartans, who are now atop the Big Ten after No. 4 Purdue's upset loss to Wisconsin. (Photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated)

Now that the college basketball season is starting to heat up, I'm going to provide a regular post on some college programs that could really shake things up for better or worse going into March Madness and the NCAA Tournament. First up is Michigan State, as the now 13-3 Spartans, ranked tenth in the AP Poll, improved to 3-0 in the Big Ten with their 71-53 victory against Iowa, who they will welcome into East Lansing for their third of three consecutive games at the Breslin Center. Minnesota and Illinois come first for Tom Izzo's bunch, which was paced by fourteen points each from junior Kalin Lucas and sophomore Draymond Green, who also added eleven rebounds.

If you think this Spartan team is the same one that cannot get over the hump against North Carolina when the money is on the line, you are sadly mistaken. Yes, Sparty has fallen to the Tar Heels in each of their last three meetings; but the scores have become much closer every time out, going from 35 in December of 2008 to 17 in last year's national championship game, to just seven this past December.

What the Spartans lost with the graduations of Goran Suton and Travis Walton, they have gained with the emergence of Green as a regular contributor in the starting lineup, not to mention the stellar guard play of both Chris Allen and Durrell Summers along with Lucas in a potent backcourt that also includes sophomore Korie Lucious, whose long-range talents were on full display in last year's tournament. With Purdue having just lost to Wisconsin yesterday, it opens the door for the Spartans to potentially distance themselves from the rest of the Big Ten on the road to the Final Four in Indianapolis, a city in which they have never lost an NCAA Tournament game. Moreover, Izzo won his only national title in the Hoosier State capital ten years ago when his team led by Mateen Cleaves and Morris Peterson defeated Florida 89-78. Ten years later, Izzo has two players just like Cleaves and Peterson in Lucas and senior forward Raymar Morgan.

Several Spartan players have already referenced North Carolina this season by saying that the Tar Heels bounced back from a crushing defeat in the Final Four by eventual national champion Kansas in 2008, only to win a national title the following season. With performances like the one last night; not to mention history being on their side, it is safe to say that Michigan State will go a long way in determining who cuts down the nets at Lucas Oil Stadium for better or worse.

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