Michigan State Takes Care of Business In Champaign Downing Illini 60 to 53, But College Basketball Takes a Black Eye
It was a battle that had both coaches referencing the Big Ten brutality of the past and clamoring against the national narrative that the Big Ten is a weak conference. MSU came in here needing to â€œavengeâ€ a loss to these same Illini at the Breslin Center 59-54 on February 7.
This game was a different story. On this night the Spartans shot 85% from the free throw line, won the rebounding battle 36-28 and held the Illini to 28% shooting. All of that added up to a good defense and on the road that and rebounding usually equal a win.
Izzo said of the game, â€œTwo teams battling for their lives. If that isnâ€™t a tournament team that we just playedâ€¦that was a war. To shoot 85% from the line is normal for Illinois, but very abnormal from us. The foul line has been am emphasis for two months so I canâ€™t take credit for that.â€
On the other side of the spectrum was Illinois coach Groce, who despite his team losing, was impressed with the Spartans.
â€œObviously a heavyweight boxing match. I thought we had our opportunities late. They are the #1 defense in the Big Ten. I thought it was two really good teams going at it. They deserved to win it. I know our guys enjoy competing against them. I thought it was a high level game in terms of competitive spirit and both teams were tough. Our league is a lot better than people think.â€
So while the Spartans improve their record and NCAA tournament resume to 19-8 (10-4) unfortunately a great win for the Spartans was also another night (of many this year) where college basketball lost. 46 fouls were called in just 40 minutes of basketball. An atrocious number that had no rhyme or reason literally from foul to foul and it wasnâ€™t pro MSU or pro Illinois. It was equally a disaster.
Although I donâ€™t like variance of officiating I can comprehend it with different refs from game to game. Once again though this was refs not just changing what was a foul from half to half, but literally possession to possession. While college basketball tries to take the physicality out of basketball, they have slowed the game down to the point that both teams tonight were in the double bonus with over eight minutes. Then mysteriously in the final minutes the whistles disappear. Did the zebras swallow them?
We wonâ€™t ever know because officals donâ€™t have to come out and face the media like players and coaches do. Itâ€™s pathetic.
I am all for improving the product, but the over regulation and meddling by the suits is destroying a game that was once among Americaâ€™s favorite. Coaches across the country are bemoaning in privately while keeping their mouth somewhat shut. (CLICK RIGHT HERE)
No doubt that a win is a win and this was a big one from the Spartans, but as one of my Twitter followers put it, â€œI'm a diehard fan and it is hard to watch...never get fringe fans with this product.â€ I grew up watching and loving college basketball with my father and my own son who was allowed to stay up late and watch texted me in the second half, â€œThis is boring Iâ€™m going to bed.â€
Coaches arenâ€™t happy, fans arenâ€™t happy and players arenâ€™t happy. Something has to give, but what?
Branden Dawson continued to be the catalyst of this team that has shot an amazing 42 out of 57 free throws during this current four game winning streak. Dawson had 13 points and seven rebounds. Denzel Valentine led the way with 20 points and added nine rebounds with two assists on 33 minutes. Travis Trice had 18 points and five rebounds along with four assists.
With this win the Spartans should move in to the top 25.
The Spartans have a little bit of a break. They return to action on Thursday at Breslin Center to take on Minnesota. That game tips at 7PM and can be seen on the Big Ten Network.