Pure Pressure: MSU Basketball playing under the microscope at home this season

Michigan State’s Breslin Center has long been regarded as one of the toughest venues to play in for any Big Ten team over the last decade.

But this season, the Spartans are not thriving within their own friendly confines, either.

Photo: Andy Lyons/Getty Images Apr 06, 2009

Photo: Andy Lyons/Getty Images Apr 06, 2009

While they remain undefeated in the conference, MSU has played some of its worst basketball at home, a trend rarely seen in many sports.

But the Spartans’ unconvincing and at times difficult-to-watch defeat of Indiana Tuesday night, brought the team’s comfort level – or lack thereof – to the foreground.

In a game kept on a tight leash held by the infamous Ted Valentine officiating crew, MSU turned the ball and their fans eyes over far too often.

The Spartans started on offense slowly and struggled to gain a commanding lead all night long against a team they beat handily last month on the road.

Somehow, the Spartans look more comfortable playing in someone else’s gym. MSU’s most recent and only loss of the season came at home at the hands of a wildly inconsistent North Carolina squad.

Is it possible the standard of MSU basketball has maxed itself out? The Izzone is no longer comprised of freshman hoping for a chance to buy Big Ten Tournament tickets.

No, this year’s Izzone is bored at the idea of a first round NCAA Tournament game. The Spartan faithful will make no bones about this. They are vocal, critical and unforgiving.

The team feels this. The media contributes to this and spotlight is burning bright in their faces.

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Applying even more pressure is the sand falling to the bottom of the hourglass on the MSU careers of Keith Appling and Adreian Payne.

The NBA beckons for Gary Harris’ athleticism and electrifying scoring abilty. Since the final seconds clicked off the clock in the Spartans season-ending loss to Duke last year, 2014 was “supposed” to be the March of destiny.

MSU fans can only hope that destiny will be kinder to the Spartans in the long run than the pressure-imposing culture that has almost caused them several games this season.