By: Chuck Ranspach
Just like I had written up in my Big Ten preview post…
MSU won the regular season.
Even if it was in a different way than I originally thought. The funniest thing from that post was my naivety thinking that MSU would go undefeated. It’s not easy to win on the road in the Big Ten, regardless of the skill of the other team.
Even after losing two early games to OSU and UM. It seems like those games were so long ago and such a different team. Looking at the way MSU is playing now, it feels as if we would actually win those games instead of getting blown out (hopefully we get the chance to play both of them in the conference tourney and give us a chance to have beaten every team in the big ten at least once.)
The Big Ten overall is having a down year, everyone can agree on that. Next year Wisconsin will be back to the top and hopefully, Minnesota can get over their injuries from this year and come back strong next year. Those two factors along with Nebraska and Penn State being a surprise will make the Big Ten relevant again. I could see all 4 of those teams having a chance to make the tournament along with MSU, OSU, UM, and Purdue.
This week’s games showed more of the same that we have become accustomed to when watching this team. Spurts of lackluster play surrounded by absolute dominance.
After a rough first half against Illinois, MSU came out of the second half and shut down the Illini to clinch their first Big Ten title since 2012. After the game, the seniors were remembered and Miles Bridges has an emotional speech, knowing it would be his last game in the Breslin.
Next, was the last game of the season, on the road, to clinch a lone title.
The last time MSU won the Big Ten outright was 2009. That team went on to lose to North Carolina in the National Championship.
After the news of the FBI probe had come out (listen to the Medium Rare College Basketball Podcast to get my take on that) and the eventual clearing of Miles Bridges, the team looked to be a tad flat. That combined with Wisconsin senior night and some heroics from a freshman with a bum shoulder, Wisconsin stuck around until the end, but MSU pulled off the victory that they needed to solidify themselves as the Big Ten number 1.
Going into the post-season there are a few things that we learned from the regular season that will prove to be very interesting:
This season goes, as Cassius Winston goes:
If you have been reading this blog, you know I love Cash. He has taken over as a leader and one of the most important players on this team. Our success will come from how well he plays.
In the post-season, every year, it seems as if great guard play leads a team to a higher place. Now, MSU has talent that normally these teams don’t have, but the concept still applies. If Cassius can keep up his prolific shooting and great vision, combined with the leadership skills he has gained from Tum Tum, the sky’s the limit for a team that has sky-high expectations.
Closing out games is…….interesting:
If you were to just look at the last few minutes of most games this season you would be worried that MSU doesn’t know how to close out a game when they have a lead. Look at last night. MSU has an 8 point lead with 20 seconds left and ended up winning by 5. Goins fouled a three-point shooter than allowed two offensive rebounds to allow a 5 point trip down the court.
That is not great, and it hasn’t been the only time that that has happened.
BUT, BUT, BUT!!!!!
I think this team has what it takes to close out close games when needed.
MSU can throw out a line up of 5 guys that shoot over 75% from the free throw line. The ability to be able to throw in the ball and have confidence that anyone who is going to catch the ball can make a free throw allows you to run plays to get anyone open. Bridges and Cassius shoot in the 90 percentile. Bridges was in the 60s last year and Cassius was lower too. Along with guard play, free throws are pivotal for success in the tournament and closing games. MSU has this and it will be to their advantage.
March is the best time for a general college basketball fan, but when your team is being picked by everyone win it all makes watching the tournament a sea of screams of joy and pain until in the end you either get upset or win it all.
MSU has everything that a team needs to win a championship, now go out and get it!
If you like my thoughts here, please give the Medium Rare Basketball Podcast a listen. Chris and I give a lot of thoughts on the sport in general and will have extensive coverage of the tournament after selection Sunday.