Thursday, February 7, 2013
Spartans flying under the radar?
By Luke Lapinski
Michigan State has made the tournament every single year since 1998. That's 15 consecutive trips to the Big Dance, 11 of which have resulted in a run past their opening round game and six of which have resulted in a push to the Final Four -- with a National Championship mixed in there for good measure.
In other words, East Lansing has a nice tradition of winning big basketball games in March. And no one gets more out of his players when the postseason rolls around than Tom Izzo. His teams routinely seem to play their best when the stakes are raised, and this season may be no different. As our own Seth Greenberg points out, the Spartans are actually a bit of a "sleeper" at the moment though. The Big Ten is absolutely loaded and, as a result, they're kind of getting lost in the shuffle of strong teams behind Indiana and Michigan. But who really wants to pick against MSU at this time of year? Last night's victory over No. 18 Minnesota has Izzo's group at 19-4 on the year. That's hardly a team that's simply playing above average basketball. It's a group that is dangerous as usual, and getting better as this season unfolds.
The Spartans are lead by a potent backcourt that starts with the impressive play of Keith Appling and Gary Harris. That's always a major asset in a one-and-done situation, and Harris, in particular, is growing by leaps and bounds as he progresses in his freshman year. Plus, as Greenberg also notes, this team has a (relatively) healthy Branden Dawson -- something they didn't have for the NCAA Tournament in 2012 -- and a solid frontcourt to round things out. Assuming they can get healthy, they likely won't be flying under the radar much longer.