Questions and Answers Surround the Spartans With Tournament on the Horizon

Hondo S. Carpenter

Questions and Answers Surround the Spartans With Tournament on the Horizon

 

I sat courtside for the obliteration that the Spartans took on Saturday in Indianapolis. I had a lot of different thoughts, but when one of my colleagues referred to it as obliteration it fit. That’s what it was. However, to judge the season by one game is foolish so as the Spartans prepare for the Big Dance, let’s try to put a little focus on the season.

 

First and foremost, ANY season that hangs a banner whether it is a Final Four, Big Ten Regular season or National Title is a good year. Any. I don’t count the Big Ten Tournament of any value. In fact the vast majority of teams don’t even hang banners for their tournament in the ACC. The Spartans won the regular season title and that banner already hangs in the friendly confines of the Breslin and that alone validates and makes this season successful.

 

With that said, you look at the facilities, the coach and the players and it is hard not to get greedy and want more. This program by Izzo’s own admission has looked to the Final Four in Detroit as a high goal. Izzo long contemplated every recruit and how they fit in the scheme for a run at the D. How do I know? We’ve talked about it multiple times over multiple months.Â

 

Tom loves this State and he desperately wants to see his team represent in Detroit. He has the facilities, he is the right coach and he has the talent. However this time of year is often predicated on things that aren’t encompassed in that set of criteria.

 

The Spartans were pummeled by UNC in Detroit. There were a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that UNC fully healthy is a better team. How bad they lost was atrocious, but I have never thought a loss to UNC is a mark against a team. UNC is a storied and great program. The looks on their faces however and their demeanor is what bothered me. When this team got down, the fight wasn’t there. The swagger that said let’s fight to the end was replaced with, “Is it time to go?”

 

You saw that against PSU and NW at the Breslin and at Purdue. Perhaps it is youth, but there are four seniors that are leaving. What perturbed me on Saturday at a tournament and game that had zero value to me was that same look was on their faces when the Buckeyes started rolling in the FIRST half. The fight and the swagger that championship teams posses were non-existent. Champions compete at everything and Saturday they didn’t. They had the national media calling them out and a number one seed to play for and they didn’t.

 

If this was the first time this season that I had seen that look, I wouldn’t even mention it, but it wasn’t. This was the fifth time and you can’t turn on passion and fire like a car. You either have it or you don’t. I hate to reference him continually, but even when MSU lost while Mateen was here did anyone EVER see in a loss Mateen mailing it in. Did you ever see him accept fate? He still fights now years removed for an NBA career. He is a fighter. I am asked occasionally in question and answer times about “IT” that sports journalists refer to so often. What is that, “IT” factor and how do you evaluate it?

 

You can’t. It is something that champions posses. Perhaps that fact that there are so few champions tells us why IT is so elusive. I love the Spartans. I am passionate about them. I know each of the young men on the team and can truly say that there isn’t one kid on the team I dislike. They are good kids and they are nice young men.

 

With that said their faces against UNC, PSU, NW, Purdue and OSU tell us that this team is what Tom Izzo has called them on multiple occasions: fragile. They are not weak. They don’t have a lack of character. They aren’t bad young men. They are collectively a group that doesn’t posses IT.

 

When the Spartans played UNC the nation was watching and they folded. They had a chance early in the season to send a message and they didn’t even fight. Against NW and PSU they didn’t have Raymar, but as the Spartan Nation dreams of a Final Four those teams head to the NIT. If we had Raymar do I think the Spartans win? Yes, but is their really consolation in that? Our team against those two is still far superior talent wise and not having Raymar is an excuse not a reason and Izzo has said, “Excuses are for losers.”Â

 

On Saturday the Spartans had a number one seed in hand. All they had to do was win the Big Ten Tournament. Again expectations led to a collapse. At Purdue they had a chance to take the lead in the Big Ten race to a place that Purdue knew they would be out of it and they folded.

 

The dance brings expectations when you are MSU. The dance brings national attention and media scrutiny. The Spartans have what looks like a very manageable road to the Sweet 16. From there, it is anyone’s guess. I, for one, bet on Izzo this time of year and think a trip to Detroit is certainly possible. From there takes IT and IT can only come from players, not coaches. Win or lose the Spartans’ season has been a success. They hung a banner. What happens next is anyone’s guess. I just hope they find IT.

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