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The Spartan Nation Basketball Weekly

The Spartans will get the W tonight against the Nittany Lions.  Photo courtesy of Mark Boomgaard.

The Spartans will get the W tonight against the Nittany Lions. Photo courtesy of Mark Boomgaard.

The Seniors’ Moment to Return to Form

Did they want to come back, or did they have to come back? That’s the question that many in the Spartan Nation have asked this season about Seniors Kalin Lucas and Durrell Summers.

“I know one thing, it wasn’t pushed on me,” Tom Izzo told Spartan Nation earlier this week. “In other words, I didn’t sit there and beg them to come back or beg them to go...they didn’t talk about it much.” To be fair, Izzo had a busy off season, players and coaches might not interact as much during the summer, and not every Spartan who has ever considered leaving early has kept Izzo completely informed during their process.

“I don’t know if he (Lucas) would’ve come back or not would’ve come back, with his injury,” Izzo said about the Spartans’ floor leader. During last season’s off season, Lucas admitted he might have put his name in the mix for the NBA Draft (not a definite commitment to leave College) had he not blown his Achilles against Maryland in the 2nd Round of last year’s Dance. “It wasn’t like he was talking about leaving before that,” Izzo insisted. Yet, Izzo does concede that without the injury, he might have even encouraged Lucas to throw his name out there. “I think a lot of people thought Kalin would’ve at least entered his name, which I think he would’ve, and I maybe would’ve advised him to.”

After Summers’ outstanding run through the one-point loss in the National Semi-Final, he had a decision to make as well. The concern with Summers was, and still is, whether or not he can “bring it” on a night-in-night-out basis. Conventional wisdom suggests the Detroit native had to come back in order to establish that trait before an NBA team would burn a selection on him during the brief two-round Draft.

“In Summers’ case, he could’ve gone if that’s what he wanted to do,” Izzo contends. But that doesn’t seem to make complete sense. Summers’ NBA stock was probably never higher than it was last Spring. It’s hard to believe that he would’ve come back with his best shot at being drafted in the NBA on the line. But then again, Izzo insists that Summers chose to return. “I don’t think he had to come back.”

To me, it appears Lucas and Summers had to return for their Senior seasons more than they wanted to. The topic remains open for debate, and also open for these highly decorated Seniors to make their final statement on the matter. “I don’t think this team has quit in any way,” Izzo maintains. “I’m not asking them to do anything they haven’t done before.” Spartan Nation now hopes desperately that these two Seniors can do it one last time.

The Shadows of Lombardi Cross Over the Great Lake

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The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is a unique place. In most of the other 49 American states, the “U P” is probably just as foreign as most foreign countries. For Tom Izzo (of Iron Mountain), a close proximity to the biggest coaching icon in American sports history has always served as inspiration.

“I grew up a big Vince Lombardi fan and I’m happy the Packers won,” Izzo began. And while on the topic of the Super Bowl, Izzo also spoke in praise of the approach and skills of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ young Head Coach, Mike Tomlin.

Like this year’s Spartan Hoopsters, Lombardi’s old team (Green Bay) wasn’t even assured of making the playoffs late in the regular season. “If you look at the Packers this year, I think at one time they were barely 8-6 and nobody thought they’d get in (unless) other teams would lose,” Izzo recalled. The Packers won 7 straight on their way to the Super Bowl title, and should serve as an example to any team in need of a late season push.

Izzo said that if Lombardi were to speak to his struggling Spartans right now, he’d probably have a strong message, but joked it would not be one fit for “public radio.” “I just think he’d tell ‘em, “hey, nobody’s going to get you out of it, you’ve gotta work your way out of it,” and that’s what we’ve gotta do,” Izzo explained. “Feeling sorry for yourself, or looking at all of the things that have happened are all facts, but they don’t lead to how you can get yourself out of it…I think that’s the one thing he would say.”

Izzo is in the midst of one of his roughest years as a Head Coach, but don’t expect many around the Big Ten to feel sorry for the Conference’s most decorated coach of the last 15 years. “Nobody should give us any slack, and nobody should give us any excuses,” Izzo confessed. “Maybe his (Lombardi) spirit lives on, and hopefully we can find a way to right the ship down the stretch…I can see where people would think that this team has maybe given up hope, but trust me, that’s not the case.”

Izzo reminded Spartan Nation that his teams have actually seen times like these before. “I look back at 2002-03, we needed to win 5 or 6 in a row at the end just to get in, and we did.” If this team is going to pull off a similar feat, they must begin to recognize and accept that it’s only going to come from within. “We’ve gotta get back on track, and we’re the only ones that can do it. We don’t need any help from anybody out there, nobody’s going to get us there, it’s just going to be us.”

The Spot Up 3: Three Quick Points to Ponder

  1. Last week I pointed out that MSU’s Defense was 307th out of 346 teams in 3-Point Field Goal Percentage allowed. The Spartans began this week ranked 331st (38.6%). Something’s gotta give between that current statistic and an NCAA Tournament selection.
  2. Big East teams were so horribly overrated going into last year’s Tournament that it’s become hard to judge if they’re really any good here in 2011. There are six Big East teams ranked in the top 15 right now. Let’s see if more than 3 make the second weekend of the Big Dance. If not, that conference will have flopped in embarrassment yet again down the stretch.
  3. I like the idea of NBA contraction, but I love the idea of an entire canceled season.

Follow Jonathan on Twitter @JPSpartan or Interact with him Inside the Phalanx Forum