Spartans' Early Exit Raises Questions

Spartans' Early Exit Raises Questions

Basketball

Spartans' Early Exit Raises Questions

Disappointing loss in Big Ten Tournament Semifinals to UMAA raises concerns about March possibilities.

Contact @crowleysullivan

UMAA has a fine basketball team.

The Wolverines were up to the task today in New York City in taking down Michigan State with a fairly dominant 75-64 win in the Big Ten Tournament Semifinals.

Some are saying this gang is playing as well as any other team in the nation and is surging at just the right time.

And there isn’t any disputing that UMAA just completed a two-game sweep of Michigan State consisting of two beatdowns that, perhaps, weren’t even as close as the final scores might indicate.

John Beilein continues to show people that he’s among the finer strategic game managers in the game.

He’s flummoxed Tom Izzo twice now in a span of a couple of months and his program is one that continues to warrant respect.

It certainly hasn’t been a priority of Beilein’s since he took over in Ann Arbor – but he’s made people realize that the unseemly dynamics of the Fab Five Era existed a full generation ago.

Make no mistake – Beilein has players.

Just look at the stat line from today’s contest at a sold out and electric Madison Square Garden:

Mo Wagner – 15 points.

Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman – 15 points.

Zavier Simpson – 15 points.

Duncan Robinson – 14 points.

Charles Matthews – 12 points.

Michigan State held a 29-26 point lead at the half – but UMAA came out of the locker room with a calm focus and exploded with a 10-2 run to take a 36-31.

The Wolverines never looked back.

In January, UMAA strolled into the Breslin Center, punked State, and strolled out with a win that led to concern among the Green & White.

This game might be cause for more concern.

There are reasons to believe that Tom Izzo can push the right buttons and find the right March formula that can lead to a typical deep run.

But it’s not crazy to suggest that the Spartans have seemed to be missing an ingredient all season despite a fantastic run that includes a regular season Big Ten Championship that doesn’t evaporate with today’s discouraging loss.

The most challenging component to the missing ingredient is figuring out what that ingredient actually is.

Full game focus?

A proper sense of urgency?

Toughness?

It doesn’t seem that any of those concerns apply to Beilein’s group.

UMAA outscored Michigan State 49-35 in the second half and looked good doing it.

Michigan State has two lottery picks and another one or two players who will earn paychecks in the NBA in the not too distant future.

It’s no longer January or February.

And we’ve all seen this scenario before.

An early, disappointing exit from the Big Ten Tournament winds up being something to chuckle over during Final Four weekend.

But it’ll take a nonstop run of goblets filled with green beer to get me to find the good in this season’s two dispiriting losses to the team from Ann Arbor.

Izzo has an extra week to find that missing ingredient before things get truly serious.

This evening, it seems like he’s going to need it.

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