Spartans had a special year and set the bar high

December 7. The Spartans were 7-2 and Draymond Green was frustrated following a 20-point win against Central Connecticut State.

That’s what prompted me to write this: Frustrating Spartans bring memories of 2007, Final Four runs. Read it. Really, read it.

At that time, I felt and believed Green saw in this team the potential to be like the 2008 and 2009 Final Four teams. I also believed this wasn’t the team to do it, but it would be similar to the 2007 team, and set the stage for what was to come.

The difference was in 2007, the team did merely that … set the stage. It stumbled and bumbled its way through a mediocre season before the next two teams had tremendous success.

The sixth paragraph said this in reference to the 2007 Michigan State team: “A team that could have had a potentially special year didn’t.”

Well, fast-forward to this March 23, and the 2011 team did set the stage, but in amazing fashion. This was a team that probably should not have had a special year, but DID.

Tom Izzo said this team was not even among the top five, six or seven most talented teams he has had. It won his seventh Big Ten title anyway and claimed his third Big Ten Tournament title.

And as frustrating as it was at times for Izzo and Green, this team became incredibly loveable to everyone — especially the fans.

This team overachieved in fantastic ways, but when you think back through the season, it really doesn’t feel like they did. Somehow, it felt like like they did exactly as they should have.

With each game, these Spartans made their fans believe they could compete with anyone in the country. There was a real, true sense of belief because in every game someone was stepping up.

You knew what to expect from Green. But Brandon Wood could team up with him and hit a flurry of shots on any given night.

Keith Appling could decide he was a takeover player and drive to the hoop for multiple and-ones. Austin Thornton could drain 3s with consistency and even have plays run for him.

Derrick Nix could spin, duck and do just about any crazy move in the post to score. Adreian Payne could flash the five-star talent people expected and dominate the post.

Branden Dawson could do the same and sky for rebounds and electrifying dunks. Travis Trice and Brandan Kearney could step in and hit some shots and bring energy.

The fact it was a true team in every sense of the word was clear. The chemistry erased any memory of a difficult 2010 season. This was different. This is different as the program moves forward.

I also wrote in that December piece that there was a positive vibe from everything this team was doing. Boy, was that ever true. But against Louisville, for the first time all season, the Spartans really did not show up. For the first time this season, the Spartans didn’t make you believe.

And it was at the worst possible time, falling two wins short of the Final Four. They will get there, though.

After all, the fact that every four-year player for Tom Izzo has reached a Final Four still holds true. On the roster next year, Nix will be the only one who has been there.

The rest of the team will get their chance. This group will get there. They had a special year and it will only get better. They are so unbelievably good and will be even better.

This 2011 team did it. The stage is set and the bar is high.

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Posted on March 23, 2012, in Basketball. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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