We Are Spartans

Before their upset loss to North Carolina Wednesday night, the Michigan State Spartans sat at the top spot in the college basketball rankings for three straight weeks. Arizona ranked at the second spot with Kentucky rounding out the top three. Although Michigan State did not have a top 30 recruiting class, they seem to be dominating in the first half of the college basketball season. As I mentioned in a previous article, the experience of the Spartans has a lot to do with their early season success. Key wins for the Spartans thus far include a 78-74 win over #1 Kentucky on Nov. 12, a 96-77 victory over Virginia Tech on Nov. 22 and an 87-76 victory over Oklahoma on Nov. 23.

The Spartan offense and defense are as solid as any other in the game. They always seem to be on the same page as to where their assignments are and have several players that can finish around the perimeter and in the paint. Leading the team in scoring is G Gary Harris with 17.6 ppg. Second in scoring is Keith Appling with 16.4 ppg. Both players are averaging around 31 minutes per game, which allows their offense to thrive from their perimeter shooting.

 The dynamic shooting and ball handling skills allowed this team to hold on to their lead in the final minutes of the exciting early game against Kentucky. While it is early in the season and championships are not won in December, the way that the Spartans are playing shows that having top recruits doesn’t always equal a championship. A team that has played together for more than a year can possess knowledge and understanding that new freshmen sometimes don’t have. Michigan State has shown no signs of slowing down as they have found ways to win in every game they have played so far in the season. However, they did see their first loss last night.

On Wednesday, December 5th, the Spartans lost to the unranked North Carolina Tar Heels, 65-79. In the first few minutes of the game, the Spartans failed to set up a flowing offense that resulted in a loss of opportunities around the basket. Their defense failed to stop the Tar Heels offense which led to more second chance opportunities for the boys in blue. UNC finished with a 44.6 FG % compared to MSU’s 35.9. UNC also bested MSU at the free throw line, going 19-27 compared to MSU’s 12-18.

With G Gary Harris’s ankle troubles, the Spartans may rely on backups more and more throughout the upcoming games. Playing through the ankle troubles is clearly affecting his game and his athleticism. His ball handling skills have seen a decline due to his inability to cut and move the way he is accustomed to. Harris is the clear leader of the team and it will be detrimental to the team to see any less from him.  

In college basketball, any team can win/lose on a given night. The strategy of the game allows any one team to be better on a certain night. This one game does not show weakness in the Spartans. The next game for the Spartans is on December 14th at the 1-7 Oakland Golden Grizzlies.