When Keith Appling runs the floor to precision, even when he’s not getting his, finding a way to get his teammates involved while backcourt mate Gary Harris runs around screens, fighting to get open and knock down a three.
When Branden Dawson plays like he’s the best and most athletic player on the court while the two-big man lineup of Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne take control of the inside on both the offensive and defensive side of the floor.
When Trice, Valentine, and even Costello and Gauna come in and provide solid minutes off the Spartan bench.
And when every member of the Michigan State basketball team plays an absolutely relentless and tenacious brand of defense.
Early on, we saw glimpses of this.
Glimpses of just how good this Michigan State basketball team could really be.
In brief stretches of games throughout the early part of the season and Big Ten play, Michigan State would sometimes show these flashes of brilliance. Flashes where they would flex their muscles and show just what they’re capable of.
But they were never really able to put it all together into one complete 40 minute game. That is, until now.
When the season began, there were three teams ranked in the top 5 from the Big Ten: Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio State. One team that wasn’t there was Michigan State. They were thought by many to not be at the same type of class as the other Big Ten powerhouses. Through the first couple of months of the season, this thought appeared to be spot on.
Like they always do, Michigan State played to their “anyone, anywhere” mentality and played a few tough games at the beginning of the season. As a result of this tough schedule, the Spartans got out to a bit of a slow start, stumbling in games early on against Connecticut, Miami, and Minnesota. The Spartans would even at times struggle to put away teams they were clearly better than until very late in the game.
However, all these things are now behind them and Michigan State is playing their best basketball of the season. For starters, they are currently in the midst of an impressive 10-1 stretch, doing so in the most competitive and deep conference in the nation. And with their dominant victory over in-state rival Michigan Tuesday night, it appears that the Spartans have really gained a lot of chemistry and are beginning to click on all cylinders.
It’s a good time for this to be happening for them too, because with only two weeks left until the month of March gets here, the college basketball season is now entering it’s home stretch. And with the recent play of the Spartans, there is no telling what the ceiling of this team is.
They’ll start by trying to win a Big Ten Championship. After beating Michigan Tuesday night, Michigan State and Indiana now stand alone at the top of the conference at 10-2. If they both take care of business in their next match ups (Michigan State @ Nebraska and Indiana vs. Purdue), it should set up for a huge rematch game on the 19th in the Breslin Center, a place the Spartans have yet to lose at this year.
However, it doesn’t get any easier for the Spartans after taking on Indiana, because after that, they’ll face a tough two game road stretch against both Ohio State and Michigan, before returning home to finish out the season against both Wisconsin and Northwestern.
Nevertheless, with just six games left in the regular season, the Spartans are once again right in the thick of things. But should it come as any surprise? Just like he has done for the better part of the last 15 years, Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo has his team playing their best basketball late in the season. If Michigan State can stay healthy and continue to play at a high level, they very well could be a team cutting down the nets come March, because when the Spartans are on their game, they’re as good as anyone in the country.
Follow Ryan Squanda on twitter @squandarunner