Someone Has to Say it: MSU Just Isn't That Good

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I am usually one of the optimists during the early season losses. Michigan State’s basketball schedule is a meat grinder every year and this one is no exception. Every opportunity MSU has had to reestablish their identity as the rough and tough, rebounding athletic, green giant has been lost in the non-conference season. Michigan State’s interior defense is porous. Their interior post-up game is tragic and their willingness to settle for jumpers is unSpartan… not sure if it was a word before this season, but it is now.

 

I am going to come out and say it. Michigan State is not very good. Take them out of the top-25. Stop talking about a sure return to the Final Four and start talking about them as a potential Big Ten Conference finisher at positions 4-6 and probably a 6-10 seed in the tournament. I know that the injury bug bit this team during the off-season. I know that there were some off-the-court issues that were in need of repair. I believed it was all a factor and I still do, but it is time for this team to grow up and play Spartan basketball or it is time to own the identity they have earned so far this season. I won’t put a formal label on it. I don’t need too. Every fan that has followed this team during the Izzo era knows that this team is not playing anywhere near their capability.

 

So what is missing? A lot. I don’t believe in beating up incessantly on college kids and amateur athletes. It is clear that these kids are not playing for each other. It is clear that they are not galvanized as a team. The level of tenacity is unSpartan like. The rebounding effort is unSpartan like. The lack of desire is unSpartan like. The lack of bone crushing screens is unSpartan like. Hill, Torbert and Anderson were unfairly judged and berated by sports writers. This group of upper classmen has been to back-to-back Final Fours and they look as though they could go into hibernation over the Big Ten season. They look like an ACC team that is waiting for the ref to blow the whistle every time somebody out hustles them, out rebounds them or dare I say it… out Spartans them.

 

Where is the football player on the hardwood mentality? Where is the go hard every time and beat your opponent with sheer effort that so many other Spartan teams used to become victorious? The shiny new uniforms don “Spartans”, but the men who wear them need to find the spirit and soul that has made so many opponents cringe when they saw the ‘men-in-green.’ Speaking of Green, Draymond needs to find his place down low on the block. The perimeter was a ‘neat’ experiment, but it is now time to get down low and help this team establish the post and start rebounding the basketball.

 

Nix is the best low post defender on the team. Sherman is the best offensive option in the low post and isn’t bad on defense as well. One of these guys needs to be on the floor at all times. We cannot defend the low block, box-out and rebound without Sherm or Nix in the game. Durrell is playing more consistently, but needs to play small forward for this Spartan team. His ball handling isn’t good enough to break long defenders down and he needs to continue to score the ball anyway that he can. Summers can go inside or outside. He is a good shooter coming off screens and he is one of the team’s better rebounders.  I have been pleased with Durrell’s effort this season.

 

Much has been made about Kalin’s injury. It was a big deal. I think Kalin has played as well as anyone could have hoped. I don’t think that Kalin’s play so far this season has been a detriment. He is playing under control. He is making good decisions with the ball and he has been getting to the goal with dribble penetration. He needs more help. Most of it needs to happen on the defensive end of the floor.

 

This team didn’t get back on defense the other night against Texas. They didn’t get back on defense against Syracuse and what was most disturbing is that it didn’t really seem to bother them a whole lot. It bothers me. It bothers a whole lot of Spartans everywhere because it isn’t our brand of basketball. 

 

There were times in the past when a Tom Izzo team’s toughness was called into question. Inevitably, we’d hear about the football pads and helmets going on and the rebounding and defense and even desire would take a jump after the latest ‘war’ drill. The piece of this that puzzles me the most is that I have a hard time seeing anyone outside of Day-Day and Sherm looking natural wearing shoulder pads and a helmet. This is kind of scary. It was easy to imagine guys like Smith, Cleaves, Bell, Torbert, Hutson, Peterson, JRich, Anagonye and Trannon in football gear. Half of those guys were outstanding football players. Do we even have a former football player on the roster? Is there one in the starting line-up?

 

So many other Spartan teams showed their grit and determination in their body language and their desire to destroy an opponent. This group looks like they are content to play a close game with a nationally ranked opponent. I can stomach a down year. We are due for one. Let’s face it; we have been spoiled. Down years should happen during major roster overhauls. Down years should not happen with a veteran team that has won back-to-back Big Ten Championships and has played in two Final Fours. It was gut check time two weeks ago. What time is it now? Oh, time for the Big Ten season. Fasten your seat belts; this could be a very bumpy ride.