Rushed Reactions: #22 Michigan State 69, #8 Michigan 55Posted by Walker Carey on March 16th, 2014
Walker Carey is an RTC Correspondent. He filed this report after Sunday’s Big Ten Tournament title game between Michigan and Michigan State in Indianapolis.
Three Key Takeaways.
- “THIS” version of Michigan State is very dangerous. Tom Izzo‘s squad was very popular Final Four pick in the preseason. As the season progressed, the Spartans lost their popularity due to a variety of injuries. Floor leader Keith Appling missed time. Standout scorer Gary Harris missed time. Versatile forward Branden Dawson missed time. Stretch big man Adreian Payne missed time. The question changed from, “Will Michigan State get to the Final Four?” to, “Will Michigan State ever get healthy?” The Spartans finally played with a full roster for the final three games of the regular season, but they only went 1-2 in those games. This prompted national pundits to question if the team will be able to shake off the rust in time to make a serious run in the postseason. Michigan State just may have answered that question this week, as it ripped off three relatively easy victories en route to the Big Ten Tournament title. As the NCAA Tournament is set to begin later this week, Michigan State finally appears to be the team that many thought it would be.
- Michigan’s offense was out of sorts all afternoon. The biggest factor in Michigan winning the regular season conference title by three game was its marvelous offensive attack. Sophomore guards Nik Stauskas and Caris LeVert bursted onto the scene as two of the elite shot makers in the conference, sophomore forward Glenn Robinson III used his versatility and great athleticism to be a legitimate threat from both the inside and outside, and freshman point guard Derrick Walton Jr. showcased a natural ability to distribute the basketball. All four were thrown off their games Sunday afternoon, as Michigan State’s defense was tenacious from start to finish. The Wolverines finished with their second-lowest scoring output of the season and that can be majorly attributed to its shooting struggles all afternoon. Michigan finished shooting just 31.5% from the field and it could never get anything going from behind the three-point line, finishing at just 26.1% from distance. Every team goes through poor shooting games, but for a team that relies so much on its outside shooting, Michigan is going to need to make better adjustments when up against a tenacious defense if it wants to advance deep into the NCAA Tournament.
- These are two teams to keep an eye on in the NCAA Tournament. Michigan State is as talented as any team that will be in the Field of 68. Now that they are at full health, the Spartans will be a popular pick to advance deep into the bracket. While it did not play well Sunday afternoon, Michigan is still an extremely good team that won the regular season Big Ten title for a reason. This year’s NCAA Tournament seems like it is wide open and the two teams that played Sunday afternoon in Indianapolis each have a chance to – at the very least – make a run to the Final Four.
Player of the Game. Branden Dawson, Michigan State. The junior forward was named Most Outstanding Player of the Big Ten Tournament after turning in another terrific effort in the win over Michigan. Dawson finished with 15 points on 7-of-8 shooting and also collected six rebounds in just 24 minutes. Sunday’s performance put an exclamation point on a week where Dawson proved to the country that he is finally fully healthy again.
- “We beat two great teams, both of them deserving of one seeds.” – Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, vouching for both Wisconsin and Michigan as potential one seeds in the NCAA Tournament.
- “It is a pretty good time of the year to be playing well.” – Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, presenting the Big Ten Tournament trophy to Tom Izzo and the Spartans.
Sights and Sounds. It was a terrific environment inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse, as both Michigan and Michigan State brought a ton of fans for Sunday afternoon’s action. It was practically a 50/50 split between the two teams. A cool moment occurred when victory had been guaranteed for Michigan State and seniors Adriean Payne and Keith Appling were subbed out as Big Ten Tournament champions.
What’s Next. Both teams will begin play in the NCAA Tournament later this week.