Maybe we should all just take a deep breath. Go out for a run, take the dog for a walk, read a book.
We need to relax. Take a “chill pill” as I believe middle schooler’s like to put it.
A little over a week ago, the Michigan State basketball team looked about as good as anyone in the country. In the midst of an impressive 11-1 stretch, the Spartans were rolling, ranked 4th in the nation and set for a huge game against No. 1 Indiana.
After students waited outside the Breslin Center for several hours for the big game against the Hoosiers to begin, the game finally tipped off. In what was a close game played throughout, the Spartans managed to take a four point lead, 67-63, with 1:38 to go in the game. However, poor defense and missed free throws down the stretch allowed Indiana to close the game on a 9-1 run and steal one in East Lansing, 72-68.
Five days later, Michigan State made their way down to Columbus to take on the Buckeyes. After the Spartans built a nine point lead early in the second half, everything fell apart as the Buckeyes, led by junior guard Aaron Craft, went on a 24-5 run. The Spartans stormed back late but were unable to win for the second straight game.
And now, as the Spartans have dropped two games in a row for the first time all season, I think I’ve also heard that the hole in the ozone layer has increased by four sizes and that gas prices are going up to 12 dollars a gallon.
All in all, with these last two losses for the Spartans, it’s not the end of the world for Michigan State. You can all stop burning your couches. That team we saw two weeks ago is still there. The stretch of games that they are going through right now is just an absolutely brutal one, and would be for anyone in the country.
“We’ve forgot what this schedule is like and what this conference is like this year,” Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo said. “But it’s the reality of what just about every team has gone through.”
And while Michigan State has dropped the first half of their tough stretch to both Indiana and Ohio State, they still have a chance to split the hard series of games if they come to play for another big game against Michigan on the road this Sunday and also against Wisconsin at home. After that, they will close the regular season at home against Northwestern.
“I’m not in any panic mode. We play good teams and when you play good teams, you’re gonna lose games,” Izzo said. “You’d like to win them all but we’re not that kind of team yet. I’m hoping the best basketball we’ve got is coming.”
If Michigan State can win out down the stretch, they’ll still have an outside shot at the Big Ten regular season title or even a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tourney (their chances helped mightily by the latest stumbles of both Indiana and Florida Tuesday night). They’ll need help though as they still stand a game behind Indiana in the Big Ten race.
But even if the Spartans can’t capture the regular season conference crown this year, the season does not end there. There is still a lot to play for. Look at Connecticut a few years ago, who finished 9th in the Big East and went on to win both their conference tourney as well as the National Championship.
So for Michigan State, after they close out the regular season and subsequently make their way down to Chicago for the Big Ten Tournament, they’ll have a very good shot to do exactly what they did last year: win it all and claim a one seed. Maybe we’ll even see another potential rematch between the Spartans and the Hoosiers in the championship game.
At the end of the day though, the sun hasn’t set on the Spartans’ season. There is still plenty of basketball to be played. And don’t look now but March is just two days away, the time of the year where Izzo always has his teams playing their best.
Follow Ryan Squanda on twitter @squandarunner