I don’t know how many of you watched the MSU-Kansas game last night, but I watched it with my brother. And we kept saying the same thing: “I can’t believe we’ve still got a chance to win this game.” If you’d told me before the game that MSU would shoot 39% from the field while allowing Kansas to shoot 45%, get outrebounded and beaten to every loose ball, and have Goran Suton spend half the second half on the bench with foul trouble, I’d have predicted MSU would get blown out by 20 points.
That was one of the ugliest wins I’ve ever seen. And they did it with timely defense in the second half. They did it by getting 13 steals, including 5 by Suton, who played a fantastic game against Cole Aldrich. Suton has always been a mystery. He’s got the talent to be an all-American player, but he rarely seems to put together good games back to back. He’s been Izzo’s whipping boy for 4 years because of that inconsistency.
But against Aldrich, he played one of the best games I’ve ever seen him play on both ends of the court. 20 points, 9 rebounds and 5 steals. He was incredibly active on defense, moving his feet well against Aldrich in the post and knocking away pass after pass in the second half. He did the same thing against Aldrich that he did against Pitt in last year’s NCAA tournament. When he has a great big man to play against, he usually steps up to the challenge. And then in other games he looks like he’s lost. It drives Izzo nuts and I can see why.
Lucas also took over in the last 10 minutes of the game. With the game on the line, they ran a clearout for him against Collins and he came through, drawing the foul and hitting the shot and the free throw. That was the difference. Collins had a great game, but when the game was on the line he missed the front end of a 1-and-1. Lucas was 7 for 7 from the free throw line at the end of the game.
My brother is now convinced that MSU is going to blow out Louisville after winning this ugly game. I’m not convinced. Yes, they have the talent to beat Louisville. They have the talent to beat anyone. But I think they have a very difficult time matching up against Louisville’s big guards on the perimeter. I don’t know who’s going to stop Terrence Williams.
Then again, if they can win this game against Kansas, a game they had no business winning, I’m not gonna bet against them now.
As for Duke, they got blown out by Villanova, a team that is pretty much their mirror image but with more speed and athleticism. This Duke team overachieved, as they have the last three years. They haven’t had a legitimate post player since Shelden Williams graduated, something Duke’s best teams have always had. Coach K has led this team to 25+ wins the last three years with smoke and mirrors.
I expect them to start their climb back to the top next year with two legit big men coming in. Mason Plumlee is rated one of the top 3 centers in the class and Ryan Kelly is rated one of the top 5 power forwards. They’ve got talent on the perimeter already, especially if Gerald Henderson returns for his senior season. I think they’re a legitimate final four contender next season, for the first time in a while.