Spartan Nation Shines as Football and Basketball Rest on Sure Ground!

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Things can't get much better for big-time MSU sports. Or, at least, they haven't been this good in a long, long time.

 

With the football team coming off a tremendous season, losing a close game to Georgia in the prestigious Capital One Bowl, and the basketball squad looking to up the ante with a National Championship and Final Four that revitalized the State, MSU is entering what might appear to be an athletic golden age

 

The last time both programs had such a strong showing in the same season, Mateen Cleaves and Morris Peterson were cutting down the nets after vanquishing Florida for the National Championship. That only a few short months after Nick Saban's squad (coached by Bobby Williams after Saban departed for LSU) beat the Gators in the Florida Citrus Bowl — the Cap One's precursor.

 

The difference now, of course, is the football team's upward trajectory seems to be more stable under the leadership of Mark Dantonio. But the basketball team, as always under the wildly successful Tom Izzo, shows no signs of letting up anytime soon.

 

With both revenue sports garnering extra, post-season attention, the exposure factor for MSU has never been greater. Sure, things were going well back at the turn of the millennium, but the football program soon tailed off. And before the Spartan's first National Championship march under Judd Heathcote and Magic Johnson, the football team had some success as well, finishing 8-3 in a tie for the Big Ten title.

 

But perhaps never before have the two pillars of MSU athletics shown so much promise simultaneously. And that's huge for maintaining an edge in the hyper-competitive world of college recruiting. The exposure MSU got before facing one of the SEC's best in their New Year's Day bowl game was one thing; the nationwide media attention a scrappy bunch of Spartans are getting now, capturing the hearts of both casual fans and green and white lovers alike, will not only help Izzo's cause, but should build on the success of Dantonio's program as well.

 

"Just the association with that (Final Four run)," is important, Dantonio said during spring practice last week. "I think the biggest thing is the message to our players that you don’t have to look too far for excellence here, and I've said that a lot, really since coming here."

 

Izzo and Dantonio have a mutual respect and admiration for each other's work, with Izzo going so far as to say football should be the number one sport at Michigan State. He's even suited his players up in helmets and shoulder pads when he feels like toughness needs to be the lesson plan. And Dantonio does his part as well, praising Izzo's success every chance he gets and becoming a regular face in the crowd at the Breslin Center.

 

"What's so impressive to me about what they've done, it's been a team effort, it's a program effort," Dantonio said about Izzo's current bunch. "There's great direction and in crunch time, they've been able to play through the tough times — (whether) they're up by ten and they have to hold a lead, or whether they are down by twelve and have to come back, they've been able to do that.

 

"And I think that's just great presence and great character on the court."

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