Spartans fall in a crazy Big Ten Saturday

It had to be the purple court. I couldn’t shake it just watching the game, I don’t know how anyone playing on it for the first time could focus with all that … purple.

Northwestern ended Michigan State’s 15-game winning streak Saturday, and with it brought the gut-check loss that reminded everyone of an important truth: The Spartans are good enough to beat anyone, but not so good to the point they can’t get beat on any given night.

But in that, they are the epitome of many Big Ten teams right now.

One night, the Spartans blow out Iowa in such fashion that it came close to being Michigan State’s second-largest margin of victory in a Big Ten game EVER.

On Saturday, Northwestern backdoor’d and executed better than the Spartans.

“They deserved to win the game and we didn’t,” Tom Izzo said. “That is gonna just be life in the Big Ten. It’s not like anybody can beat anybody, that’s a very good team that just beat us, a very good team.”

This is what I appreciate about the Big Ten (in basketball, but it also applies to football) is the teams just beat up on each other. Home teams in conference play through Saturday are 19-12.

Wisconsin, who was ranked in the top 10, lost three in a row to Iowa, MSU and Michigan.

On Saturday, only Michigan and MSU — both top-15 teams played — and lost to unranked teams on the road.

Ohio State was upset by Illinois last week — when Brandon Paul put up 42 points for the Illini.

It’s madness. It’s the Big Ten.

In football, it’s the same. You see Nebraska dominate Michigan State, to get blown out by Michigan. It contributes to the national perception the Big Ten is a bad football conference, because it has lacked an “elite” team the past few years. But in every week, you never know what is going to happen and it makes the conference season exciting.

This is why I love the Big Ten.

It literally feels as though any team can win in any game. Home-field advantage is much more prevalent in football, but it seems to not be as important to have home-court advantage (ask Wisconsin how that’s working out at the Kohl Center).

So here is what we know moving forward: No one is in the driver’s seat. MSU and Illinois are tied at the top, Michigan is a half-game back.

Izzo believes the conference winner will have five or six Big Ten losses, and could you really disagree with him right now?

For Michigan State, the schedule still has two games with each Ohio State, Purdue and Michigan, with road games at Illinois and Indiana.

Yet I would not pick any team other than these Spartans right now. They fell to “Chicago’s Big Ten team” and when you look at the stats, they don’t explain how.

Steals and blocks were even. The Wildcats had one more assist, the Spartans hit one more three on one more attempt. Northwestern hit two more field goals in the same number of attempts.

The biggest gaps were in fouls (MSU had 25, NU had 18), turnovers (MSU had 13, NU had 7) and rebounds (MSU had 36, NU had 24). The fouls, though, didn’t impact much as Northwestern shot only two more free throws than MSU. The turnovers didn’t lead to a large amount of transition baskets. The rebounds … well, Northwestern got the 50-50 balls that counted and converted.

The loss doesn’t fully make sense. It was ugly and it was just unpleasant. It was a sloppy game, with poor defense on the signature move of Bill Carmody’s offense — the backdoor cut. They exploited the youth — or as Izzo called it, his three and a half freshman — of MSU and the aggressive defense.

Last year, admittedly, these losses were demoralizing and more defeating than the loss itself. This year is different, if you are anything like me, you already feel they are ready to bounce back and face Michigan on Tuesday at Crisler Center (if you didn’t know, Michigan changed the name of the former Crisler Arena).

Michigan, like Michigan State, is a team that can beat anyone, but also can be beaten by anyone. As Saturday proved this for the Wolverines, it proved the same for the Spartans.

Bring on a wild next couple months of Big Ten basketball — and bring on Tuesday night.

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Posted on January 15, 2012, in Basketball and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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