Raymar the â€œXâ€ Factor
Coming into the 2010 season, the Spartan Nation knew Tom Izzoâ€™s â€œXâ€ Factor.Â The Big Ten knew MSUâ€™s â€œXâ€ Factor, and even the National Media that ranked the Spartans as high as 2nd in pre-season polls knew the player that would likely make or break their chances to get back to another Final Four in Indy.Â Raymar Morgan remains that â€œXâ€ Factor.Â â€œHeâ€™s a very valuable player because heâ€™s such a smart player, and heâ€™s capable of playing so many positions,â€ Izzo explained.Â â€œItâ€™s been a little disappointingâ€¦itâ€™s been a little mind bogglingâ€¦but it is what it is, and weâ€™ve gotta see if we can get Raymar going.â€
Much was expected out of Morgan, who gutted it out throughout an illness riddled â€™09.Â He was never quite himself after the damaging combination of mononucleosis and pneumonia finally began to exit his system, but he showed signs late that he could put it together in 2010.Â Spartan Nation asked Coach Izzo if he expected the Sr. to reach another gear, as many Srs. have during their last couple of months in a College uniform, Izzo was certainly hopeful.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â â€œThat would be very important for us,â€ Izzo began.Â â€œThereâ€™s no question that he hasnâ€™t hit the gear yet, but thereâ€™s no question that heâ€™s hit it before.â€Â Morgan has had more than a few stretches of great games thus far at MSU, but itâ€™s been hard to figure out why it hasnâ€™t all come together on a more consistent basis.Â
Time is running out for the â€œXâ€ factor.Â He knows it, his team knows it, and the Spartan Nation knows it.Â That combination might just be enough to inspire the best stretch of basketball Raymar Morgan has ever put together at Michigan St.
Adversity Often Sprouts Growth in Spring
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Some say, â€œthat which doesnâ€™t kill you only makes you stronger.â€Â I think thatâ€™s generally true, though â€œthat which nearly kills youâ€ can be impossible to ever fully recover from.Â The Spartans recent 3 game skid, and list of accompanying challenges (injuries, discipline issues, distractions, etc.), were hardly such knockout blow.Â Yet, the recent tough stretch provided MSU with a generous portion of adversity as they looked to be rolling towards a shot to wrap up a Big Ten title before March 1st.Â
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â â€œYou can go through some (adversity) where it defeats youâ€¦but for the most part, I think adversity is something that does build a little more character,â€ Izzo told Spartan Nation.Â â€œIt does make you think more about things, whether its Coach to Coach, Player to Coach, or Player to Player.â€Â The Spartans have looked better since Lucas began to heal and they hit the road for two of the weaker opponents in the conference (Penn St. and Indiana).
Coming off the injury, Lucas has played at a better pace.Â Thatâ€™s not to say he was playing too fast or out of control before the injury, but it is to say in the last two efforts, heâ€™s managed his game with more poise and control.Â He seems to be thinking his way around the court more and not forcing his way around as much.Â
The Spartan Nation knows that MSUâ€™s next two games will likely decide their ultimate fate in the Big Ten race.Â Though Ohio St. was beaten by Purdue Wednesday night, the Bucks (aka Brutus) are still playing as well as any team in the conference right now.Â Therefore, Sunday might reveal how much the Spartans took from their recent adversity spell.Â â€œI think we did grow a little bit (from the 3 straight losses),â€ Izzo explained, â€œâ€¦now how muchâ€¦weâ€™re gonna soon find out.â€
Â The Scheduling Solution?
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â By most accounts, something needs to be done about the Big Ten Basketball schedule.Â â€œI donâ€™t blame anybody because thereâ€™s a lot of different factors that I donâ€™t even know, so Iâ€™m not going to talk about something I donâ€™t know, but itâ€™s definitely been the strangest Big Ten season Iâ€™ve ever witnessed in my twenty-something years here,â€ Tom Izzo told Spartan Nation earlier this week.Â
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Spartan Nation checked in with two of the other top Coaches in the Big Ten to get their thoughts on starting Big Ten play before early January.Â â€œTo talk about it at this time of year sounds like your whining,â€ Wisconsin Head Coach Bo Ryan quipped.Â â€œWhen we get into our Big Ten meetings, weâ€™ll talk about it.â€Â Ryan seemed the least concerned of the trio, believing simply that scheduling issues are just a part of the game.Â â€œIn the nine years Iâ€™ve been in the league, everyoneâ€™s had some different scheduling issues, and mainly because of accommodating the media, TV, and things like that.â€
Currently playing an 18 game schedule (facing 8 of the 10 opponents twice a year), the conference should start by moving the start of the Big Ten season to mid December.Â At the same time, the conference should add a couple more conference games to play a full round robin and produce a â€œtrueâ€ conference champion (an idea familiar to Spartan Nationâ€™s regular readers).Â If such a drastic change means cutting out a couple of â€œcupcakeâ€ tasting non-conference, non-contests, I doubt anyone will care.Â In fact, most will probably cheer.Â
â€œIâ€™m more open to having some balance in when you play people,â€ Purdueâ€™s Matt Painter told Spartan Nation.Â â€œItâ€™s (starting the Big Ten season earlier) something that sounds good in theory, and if it makes it more balanced, then greatâ€¦but Iâ€™m not sure it would.â€Â Tom Izzo seemed to echo Painterâ€™s point of view.Â â€œIf starting earlier were to help (the scheduling anomalies), Iâ€™d be in favor of it.â€
Big Ten Basketball would be a better product with a smarter schedule.Â There's simply too many games being stuffed into too few weeks right now.Â Adding more weeks to the conference schedule, and hopefully two more games, appears to be a logical solution and improvement.Â And no matter if the conference expands to 12, 14, or even more teams, basketball scheduling should be improved for the better of the best athletic conference in the history of College sports.Â
Creanâ€™s Great Cultivation
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â If you thought the Spartan Football program was in ruins after the 2002 or 2006 season, wait till the full details of what Tom Crean inherited with Indiana Basketball someday come to light.Â To date, few know the depths of what went on inside the Hoosier Basketball program, but many of us remain curious.Â The rumors and innuendo that surrounded the great Hoosier implosion have been astonishing and crazy.Â The ex-Spartan Assistant and current Hoosier Headman is now deep into his second year of the fight to rebuild the foundation of a completely gutted Indiana program.Â
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â â€œIt seems like it was light years ago (last season), but it wasnâ€™tâ€¦and weâ€™re (still) living through that,â€ Crean told Spartan Nation earlier this week.Â â€œWe had to get a team on the floor.â€Â Crean knows he still has a ways to go with his major Bloomington rebuilding project.Â â€œWeâ€™re not getting ready to write a manual on how to build a program from scratchâ€¦thereâ€™s a lot of give and take to this, and thereâ€™s (ongoing) trial and error.â€
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Crean arrived to Indiana after spending nine years at Marquette, which included a 2003 Final Four trip, thanks in large part to Dewayne Wade.Â Before Marquette, Crean spent four special years as one of Tom Izzoâ€™s assistants.Â â€œWhat we deal with there (at MSU) was (Izzo) replacing a legend, in a legendary program,â€ Crean remembered.Â â€œThe one thing that he (Izzo) never let happen was he never let those (players) lose any accountability, and never handed them anything they didnâ€™t earn.â€
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â CreanÂ left for Marquette after the â€™99 Final Four run.Â Though the complete rebuilding effort at Indiana is not nearly what Izzo faced upon taking over Spartan Basketball, Crean still finds himself applying many lessons learned from his â€œbuildingâ€ days with Izzo.