I know the season just started, but if there's a better game to be played than the one last night between Gonzaga and Michigan State, I can't wait to see it. If you missed it, you missed a triple overtime classic. It wasn't Duke-Kentucky in 92 great, but it was a small step below it. How about two teams playing their third game in 4 days, MSU doing it in what would literally be the middle of the night in their usual time zone, and hitting a combined 49 of 50 free throws in the second half? And serious basketball fans learned a lot from this game.
A. This is not your typical Gonzaga team. Gonzaga has been a top 25 team for the last several years, but not a serious threat to make the final four. Not so anymore. This Gonzaga team has it all - athleticism on the perimeter in Raivio and Pargo, a great low post player in Baptista, depth at all positions, and one great player. Adam Morrison is for real, and may well be the national player of the year this year. He can do it all on the court - handle the ball, take it inside, hit the three, make the great pass. Just a great player in every phase of the game, and on top of that he sports a 70s porn mustache and looks like Billy Crudup in Almost Famous. Morrison went for 43 points
B. Maurice Ager will be the Big Ten player of the year and probably a 2nd or 3rd team all-American. He picked up his 4th foul early in the second half, sat until about the 13 minute mark, then came back in and scored 28 of his 36 points without fouling out until the end of the third overtime. He hit the 3 pointer that put the game into overtime, then hit big shot after big shot to keep them in it.
C. This is not the Paul Davis we're used to seeing. Paul Davis has been a tease for 3 years. A McDonald's all-American coming out of high school, he's shown flashes of his ability but has just as often disappeared in games. He's just not had the aggressive demeanor he needs to compete. Toward the end of last season, that started to change. He played well throughout the NCAA tournament, putting up 20 and 12 against Shelden Williams and Duke in the Elite 8, then grabbing 15 rebounds against Sean May and North Carolina in the final four. He's started this season with 3 straight double doubles, including 26 points, 13 boards, 2 blocks and 3 steals against Gonzaga's big front line. He seems like a totally different player, taking it strong to the basket and not settling for jumpshots.
D. These two teams could well end up in the final four against each other. They're both that good. And we can only hope it's half the game it was last night. God I love this game.
I usually don't watch too much college basketball until mid december at least when you get good matchups; i just can't stomach watching Duke beat up on a really bad Seton Hall team, for example. So I'm pretty irritated that I missed a good game this early in the year.
Thanks Ed. I was thinking all morning that you had to have posted something about the game; as i thought about you watching it last night. While i had the great fortune of attending UCLA, undergrad and grad during the Wooden championship years, and witnessed basketball played at the finest level--individual and team--during that period, i too was blessed by this game last night. I moved up here to Spokane when i retired, now a few years ago, and have grudgingly grown to like the Zags; though i have no desire to be part of the Kennel. Your point A is something i sure hope is true--the conference defensive player of the year is still sitting on the bench just coming off injury/surgery.
That game was one for the all time list. While i am sure you got your local sports talk followup in Michigan, the locals here were just as supportive in their praise for MSU and their play as they were of the home boys. Ager consistently made shots, many quite difficult, at clutch points all along the way. He is outstanding, and Davis indeed is living up to his hype. Wow.
All i can say is, having watched Duke destroy its last three opponents, both GU and MSU still have a long way to go.
There is a common thread between MSU and Gonzaga in Jud Heathcote. He was the longtime MSU coach who always loved Spokane and has been a mentor to the past few Gonzaga coaches. He actually has lunch every week with Mark Few and the other Gonzaga coaches. And of course, he was the one who gave Tom Izzo his first assistant coaching job and handed the MSU program to him when he retired 11 years ago. Jud is still beloved at MSU and his connection to Gonzaga kind of makes MSU fans look at the Zags as cousins, in a way, sharing a grandfather in common.
Tonight is my definition of perfection: MSU at 4:30, Duke at 7 pm. Pass the popcorn!
The stat that jumped out at me about this game (besides the big ones, like the score!) was that the two teams went a combined 59 for 60 in free throws to end the game. That's unbelievable. Fundamentals are back, baby!
Good shooting and fundamentals are a jud heathcote trait too. He was a teacher of fundamentals par excelance. I knew he was a big supporter of Gonzaga but I didn't know he was working with them as closely as you say he is. That was sure one heck of a game last night! I did have to feel for poor Goran at the end though.