Tuesday, January 22, 2013

MSU defense making the Spartans a true contender

As I have watched Michigan State throughout the basketball season, I have been strong in my feelings that the Spartans aren’t a legit contender to win the Big Ten title.
When you watch their games, you just don’t see that “it” factor. I can’t say I can recall too many times where I have said out loud “that is some good basketball” when watching MSU.
However, the Spartans still find themselves 17-3 overall and 6-1 in the Big Ten. Michigan State may even be a top-10 team in the nation by the end of the week.
So, how are they doing it?
While the offense hasn’t always been stellar, the defense has been for the most part.
Michigan State is currently ranked in the top 25 in the nation in points allowed (57.8 ppg) and defensive field goal percentage (37.8%).
The defense has made up for the lack of offensive fire power and allows Michigan State to essentially be in the hunt to win every game it has played.
Outside of the loss to Minnesota, the Spartans have had a chance to win every game this season. They lost by eight to Miami (Wednesday night will tell us just how good the Hurricanes can be), and the loss to Connecticut to open the season was by just four points and could have easily been a win.
Michigan State still owns the top win of any Big Ten team this season in its win over Kansas. You could argue Wisconsin’s win at Indiana is bigger, but the Jayhawks are currently higher in the rankings.
Along with giving Kansas its lone loss, Michigan State held the Jayhawks to just 64 points, its third-lowest scoring total of the season.
On Tuesday night, Michigan State out-Wisconsined Wisconsin. The Spartans held the Badgers to a season-low in points in order to pick up a 49-47 victory, just the second win for MSU at Wisconsin in the Bo Ryan-era.
Since Big Ten play, the Spartans have held three opponents to their lowest or second-lowest total of the season (Wisconsin, Ohio State, Iowa). MSU also held Purdue to its fourth-lowest point total of the season and lowest total in Big Ten play.
Assuming the defensive effort will continue, if Michigan State can find its offense, the Spartans can be a very dangerous team in the Big Ten and nationally.
The Spartans’ biggest test comes on Sunday with a trip to Indiana. The Hoosiers struggled against the defense Wisconsin brought to the table, and Michigan State has better athletes than the Badgers.

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