A great sign of how good of a team you are comes from the amount of respect opponents have for you. If you're winning games with class, playing the game the right way, and respecting your opponents that respect will be returned. That mutual respect has been there in recent years from the Spartans and their fans. After today's unexpected but very pleasant beatdown in East Lansing it is there even more. Here is a selection of Tweets and comments I saw from Sparta today:
@HammerAndRails Thanks. But they've been awake the last 4 games. Your guys were just that good today.
1. We would have had to play very, very well today to win. We did not. That is a hell of a team Purdue has with Jackson finally becoming a good player.
2. This was not about defense. Purdue, maybe the hottest team in America, shot 44% overall and 36% on 3s. The defense was good enough to win. The rebounding was a -2. That's not great, but not distastrous. - rook34 at The Only Colors
I'm hoping for an MSU win tomorrow, and hoping for a good showing if a loss is in the cards. But I won't be broken-hearted if Purdue wins. As you say, Purdue is very good. But more, I'm genuinely looking forward to rooting for Purdue in the NCAAs (exception: if they meet MSU). I can't imagine a situation where a team deserves a Final Four more than Purdue does this year.
Yikes-can you imagine how good Purdue would be with Robbie Hummel? I'd like to see Matt Painter get some coach of the year love.
And I'm rooting for Purdue to go all the way...to the championship game...where they lose to MSU. (Hey, I'm still a Spartan...and a dreamer)
I feel like we had a connection to the Spartans last season because both of us were banged up going into the NCAA Tournament. Both of us won dramatic second round games in Spokane with one team's fans cheering on the others. I respect Kalin Lucas and Tom Izzo greatly, so if any of them want to jump on board our train they are more than welcome.
As for our performance today, what else can you say? We went into an arena to face a good team and stomped them on their own floor. If we keep playing like this it will be very difficult for other teams to stop us. The scary thing is that I know we can play better. I couldn't help but think of last year's game in Minneapolis (yes, THAT game) when before the injury we looked totally dominant. I even said as much listening on the radio as Mrs. T-Mill and I were driving around today.
My only fear right now is that we somehow peak too early and have the dreaded "off game" at the worst time. We still have 7-9 games (depending on what happens in Indy) before we get to Houston. Can we keep this up that long? I certainly hope so.
Positives from the Second Michigan State Game:
JaJuan Johnson - Holy crap did JJ do some work today. The man had a double-double in about 10 minutes and the Spartans had absolutely no answer on either end of the floor. You have to be kidding me with the seven blocks, while 17 rebounds is an insane number for him. I think we have this week's Big Ten Player of the Week, and he should be the leader for Player of the Year in the conference. Some people have mentioned that the silver lining of Robbie injury has been JJ's emergence. All I know is that there isn't a player in the country right now that can stop him one on one.
Lewis Jackson - I think we can safely say that LewJack owns MSU. Since I was able to watch most of the second half on my phone I was able to heard the praise heaped upon him by Dan Dakich, calling him one of the premier guards in the Big Ten. This man is going to be a great leader next year and will help ease the burden of losing E'Twaun. With Rob coming back and LewJack running the show I think we're still going to be a top 15 team.
Ryne Smith and Terone Johnson - Once again, it is not how much you score sometimes, but when you score with these two. Both of their 3-pointers came in a stretch when we busted open the game early. They pushed a two point lead to eight and MSU never got closer than seven after that.
E`Twaun Moore - I am just fine with Moore giving us a quiet 17 and doing what he does every night. Let's get this the rest of the regular season and have him go off in the tournament.
Travis Carroll - TC is earning himself some important minutes that will pay off huge next year. I love his little 18-footer that he hits with regularity. He is not going to get a lot of shots in a game, but it means so much more when he makes the few he does get. He earned 21 huge minutes today with some good defense, a couple of rebounds, and that signature 18-footer.
Team defense - One of the things that was most impressive is that we made it look like Kalin Lucas was the only Spartan that showed up today. You're going to win a lot of games when you force the other team into 12 turnovers and 33% shooting from the field. Our perimeter defense was stellar (9% on threes) and the rest of the team was 11 for 37. Draymond Green, who had a big game at Mackey, was a virtual non-factor. As was Delvon Roe and Durrell Summers. Roe, Summers, Green, and Lucas were the core guys that have played in two Final Fours, yet only Lucas did anything of note.
Negatives from the second Michigan State game:
Kelsey Barlow - This was the first bad GDB game in a few weeks, but he played a much better second half. He even hit his first three in Big Ten play. If he starts hitting jump shots with regularity he is going to destroy opposing guards offensively. I still want to see him crash the boards more because he can be a fantastic rebounder and get some easy putbacks.
Well, the Big Ten isn't in our hands, but Tuesday night is Senior Night and a chance to go undefeated in Mackey Arena for the season. I am sure it will be a little dusty after the game when JJ and Smooge walk off that floor for the final time. A win by the Fighting Illini would be huge for their NCAA hopes, but does anyone really expect JJ and E`Twaun to lose their last game ever at Mackey Arena?
Then we go to Iowa to face a Hawkeyes team that has surprised a few this year, but may be running out of gas. That should also be a win, so unless something unexpected happens we will go into the Big ten Tournament as at least the #2 seed and we'll probably be a #2 seed in the NCAA's as well. There is an outside chance at the #1 seed in both, but that only means more in the NCAAs. I am hoping that the same Penn State team that pushed OSU in Columbus shows up in Happy Valley this week. Another Wisconsin upset of OSU would be very nice too.
As far as a #1 seed in the NCAAs, I would love it, but we likely needs some help there. I don't see us jumping into the top 4 unless we share the Big Ten regular season title with OSU and beat them in Indianapolis. I think a #1 seed gives us a path to at least the Elite 8 unless we beat ourselves, but there are few teams that I don't want to run into because they are bad matchups.
My favorite thing about this team is how they have taken the demeanor of their coach. Matt Painter rarely gets extremely upset and throws a fit on the sidelines. He is very calm and focused, always addressing the officials with respect instead of laying into them. At Virginia Tech when dreadlock cheerleader boy on the bench was dancing around like they had won the game we went into every timeout huddle focused. Our guys keep an even keel on the floor whether they are trailing or up 20 like today. That is going to help a lot down the stretch here.
All we can do is keep winning. That's the easiest thing to do and it erases a lot of questions. I am starting to get nervous because I fear the dreaded bad game at this time of year when this entire season has always been about March. As great as this recent three week run has been, it means nothing unless we produce over the next five weeks. We're on a six game winning streak and I am just fine with finishing the year on a 17 game winning streak.
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