Pitt Played Right Into Spartans’ Hands

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A hoard of people took a big blow in their brackets Saturday night when the Michigan State Spartans defeated the Pitt Panthers 65-54 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Panthers were the “sexy” pick to arise out of the South region and reach the Final Four. Pitt is a good team that caught fire in the Big East Tournament, but some people failed to look at the personnel. Michigan State was just better. The Spartans had more height, more depth, and talent.

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Aside from the aforementioned reasons for victory, the Panthers played right into the hands of the Spartans on the offensive end. Pitt played great defense, but on offense they started playing one-on-one as the game went on. In the first half, they tried to run some sets, but it was clear to see that Sam Young was going to try to do too much. In the first 20 minutes Young fell in love with the three-point shot. He wised up in the second half and started attacking the basket, but every time the ball touched his hands, he was putting up a shot.Â

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Levance Fields kept Pitt in the game in the first half, hitting tough shot after tough shot, but it is extremely difficult for one player to beat Michigan State. There was a lot of talk about DaJuan Blair before the game, but he found out that it is a lot tougher to bully a Big Ten team. Drew Naymick did a great job (as usual) defending Blair. Naymick, and the rest of the MSU big men had a decisive height advantage, and Blair struggled to get good shots up. Blair, like Young, refused to pass the ball. There were numerous times when Blair would get the ball and just try to plow through the MSU defender. He should have kicked the ball out to a guard, and tried to reestablish post position.Â

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Pitt guard Ronald Ramon started to force shots as well. Normally an adequate three-point shooter, Ramon became frustrated when his first few shots didn’t fall, and he started shooting whenever he got a fairly decent look. A great deal of Ramon’s struggles can be attributed to the fact that he had to chase Drew Neitzel around the court all night.

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Pitt’s ball movement halted in the second half and that made it easy for the Spartans to contain the Panthers’ weapons. The Spartans on the other hand, continued to run their sets. Even when Pitt made a surge in the middle portion of the second half, and Drew Neitzel wasn’t connecting, the Spartans remained calm. Kalin Lucas was running around the court at 100 mph, but he played under control and made good decisions. When Neitzel started connecting again, the game was over.

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The most impressive aspect of the game for the Spartans was that they continued to feed Goran Suton in the post. They played extremely smart basketball. It sounds simple to just feed the post, but we have seen games this season where the ball wouldn’t go anywhere near the paint for long stretches. Â

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Now it’s on to Houston, where I truly believe that the Spartans can win two games and get to the Final Four. These Spartans can beat any team in the country.  Keep in mind, that the Indiana game was the only game in which they have shown their ultimate potential in this season. We have seen that this team doesn’t need to play their best game to win, but I would like to think that they have at least one more performance like that in them.

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