2011 Iowa Hawkeyes Basketball
Iowa Hawkeyes vs Michigan State Spartans Basketball Recap
Iowa 72, Michigan State 52
Of all the crazy and unpredictable things that regularly happen in all of collegiate athletics, not just college basketball, it’s hard to imagine anything being more absolutely ridiculous and preposterous than the possibility that the Michigan State men’s basketball team might miss the 2011 NCAA Tournament.
Yet, that’s precisely what will happen if a bunch of slacking and lacking veterans doesn’t become fierce and focused over the next five and a half weeks.
It’s hard to truly believe it, but it is happening: Michigan State is indeed playing its way out of the Big Dance and into the NIT. Wednesday night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa, one of college basketball’s most successful programs just took a wrong turn that could bring about a very dire set of consequences. The Spartans didn’t just lose to an Iowa Hawkeye club that occupies the bottom rung of the Big Ten standings; Sparty got bombed by 20 points in the latest and greatest humiliation for a profoundly underachieving team that has to fix its problems with all due speed.
Before this season began, Michigan State was one of the foremost national title contenders in the country. Armed with a veteran lineup that was just coming off its second consecutive Final Four appearance, coach Tom Izzo – who won commendations throughout college basketball for spurning the Cleveland Cavaliers’ job offer – figured to make another run at the brass ring. With Draymond Green, Korie Lucious, Durrell Summers, Kalin Lucas, and Delvon Roe all back for another year, MSU offered prognosticators a relatively safe choice as a team primed to make Houston in early April and compete for a national crown.
Now, after a no-show against coach Fran McCaffery’s Hawkeyes, it’s not only allowable, but very legitimate, to wonder if Michigan State will even get into the NCAA Tournament. The mind reels at the thought, but it can’t be denied any longer.
Michigan State – after serving up 16 turnovers and scoring just 52 points on 62 possessions – is even more lost and confused than it’s ever been before. The fact that a veteran lineup is descending into oblivion is something that has to be driving Izzo batty. No coach other than Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski has been more consistently successful over the past 12 years. Outside of Coach K, no man who is still an active Division I head coach has forged more of a legacy of achievement than Izzo, the former Judd Heathcote assistant who made Sparty even better after he took the baton from his mentor in 1995. Now, though, Michigan State lies in tatters. The Spartans made an under-resourced Iowa team look dominant on Wednesday. The Hawkeyes got double-figure scoring performances from four of their five starters, led by Matt Gatens with 19 points. However, what was far more alarming about this showing by MSU is that the Spartans, who normally hang their hat on defense, allowed Iowa to shoot 58 percent from the field, an absolutely absurd statistic. The combination of lazy ballhandling at the offensive end and minimal hustle at the defensive end are astonishing but evident reflections of a team that just doesn’t care very much about this season. It’s a stunning thing to contemplate, given the fact that these same players are coming off two straight Final Four runs.
Sports surprise us all, but even this Michigan State meltdown is hard to comprehend. If Sparty doesn’t rally over the next several weeks, print those NIT tickets for the Breslin Center in the middle of March.
Nobody in the college basketball community will ever begin to believe it.
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