Quantcast 2012 Big Ten Basketball: Big Ten Weekly Review

2012 Big Ten Men's Basketball

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Big Ten Basketball Weekly Recap



Tuesday, February 7

Ohio State 87 Purdue 84

Wednesday, February 8

Michigan State 77 Penn State 57

Michigan 62 Nebraska 46

Thursday, February 9

Wisconsin 68 Minnesota 61 (OT)

Northwestern 83 Iowa 64

Indiana 84 Illinois 71

Saturday, February 11

Michigan State 58 Ohio State 48

Penn State 67 Nebraska 51

Sunday, February 12

Michigan 70 Illinois 61

Purdue 87 Northwestern 77

This was not a season in which the Michigan State Spartans were expected to win the Big Ten Conference. It was a season in which they were supposed to improve, but by THIS much?

Well, perhaps we shouldn't be surprised. This is Tom Izzo we're talking about here.

Last year, if you recall, Michigan State played body-snatched basketball, as a veteran collection of seasoned Izzo-coached performers simply never gelled, to the astonishment of the Big Ten basketball community, not just the Spartans’ own disbelieving fan base. Something in the MSU locker room just wasn’t right last season, and one player – Korie Lucious – got kicked off the team. A cancer invaded the surroundings, and Izzo was never really able to purge it, as his team lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament as a No. 10 seed to a ho-hum UCLA squad. The season baffled everyone in East Lansing, leading everyone to wonder if the program was going to fall on hard times.


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This season has strongly indicated that Michigan State is back to being Michigan State. Izzo’s set plays are run with precision. The Spartans know what to do at the offensive end of the floor, something that could not be said of last year’s club. Michigan State scores not based on one-on-one play, but team concepts, and that’s exactly how the league’s opposing defenses can and must be broken down. Izzo is arguably the second-best coach of his time, behind Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski. After all of his team’s struggles for a season and a half, Izzo has managed to find the right answers and guide his team to victory.

The Spartans have managed to propel themselves to the top of the Big Ten Conference, regaining the intensity and rebounding prowess that marked their ascendancy over the past 13 years. Michigan State began its run as a true national power in 1999, when it powered its way to the Final Four and initiated a golden age in which it reached six Final Fours in 13 seasons. The Spartans formed an identity based on relentless rebounding, airtight defense, and marked role distribution in which each player is able to find his own niche on the court. That was missing in 2011, but it has returned in 2012, and this is why MSU was able to stop Ohio State’s 39-game home-court winning streak this past Saturday. The Spartans used big rebounding efforts by their guards to outwork the whole of the Buckeyes' roster: Branden Dawson plucked eight rebounds in 20 minutes, and teammate Brandon Wood came off the bench to grab seven boards in 31 minutes. Ohio State's guards were not able to rebound at that rate, and since Michigan State hounded Ohio State into a wretched 26-percent shooting performance from the floor (14 of 53 field goal attempts), the primacy of rebounding became that much more pronounced on Saturday. Ohio State guard William Buford and forward Deshaun Thomas both hit just 2 of 12 shots from the field, and so when Michigan State was able to lock down on the boards, Ohio State became a one-and-done team. That's why the Buckeyes scored just 48 points, and it's why they lost.

Michigan State is playing the best basketball in the Big Ten. No, it's not what everyone expected, but everyone also knows that with Tom Izzo coaching up a storm in East Lansing, all things are possible. We've seen this movie before.



By Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer



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