Lucas the X-factor
Drew Neitzel and Raymar Morgan are Michigan State's best players, Goran Suton may be its most talented, but freshman point guard Kalin Lucas is the X-factor who holds the keys to the Final Four.
Lucas was brilliant in MSU's 78-72 win over Texas Saturday, a victory that leaves the Spartans a Big Ten title away from a No. 1 seed at Ford Field. He scored a career-high 18 points on 8-of-18 shooting and made several clutch baskets, including an amazing twisting layup between two defenders in the paint.
For the season, Lucas is averaging just 8.1 points and 4.0 assists per game, but his importance goes far beyond numbers. He's the jet that flies MSU's fast break, a better defender than anyone could have thought as a freshman, and his shot has shown remarkable improvement in his month-and-a-half as a Spartan.
Lucas told me last week he's taking about 500 extra shots a day trying to perfect his form. He's also gained confidence since hitting a big 3-pointer late in MSU's 66-61 win over Bradley, though he's still just 3-of-17 from distance on the season.
"I'm trying to be consistent," he said. "Just trying to flick my wrist a little more and it's coming along great."
For Michigan State's sake, let's hope it continues. The Spartans are headed for a lull in their schedule. They don't play another ranked team until Indiana in mid February. By that time they could be 23-1 and ranked No. 1. Even if they're not the best team in the country, it'd be tough to argue otherwise then.