I've stuck up for Michigan State basketball all year. I projected the Spartans as a six seed before the season started because I liked what I saw in practice, I knew Drew Neitzel could score, and I was confident Tom Izzo would get the most out of his team. I even predicted here last week that MSU would beat Ohio State in Saturday's rematch at the Breslin Center.
But I sure do get a kick out of all the gum-flapping reserved for MSU now. One great half of basketball against a Buckeye team that has some issues (youth, inexperience, too reliant on the 3-point shot, for starters) has some people going over the top.
Look, MSU is a solid team, an NCAA tournament team, probably the third best team in the league when everything shakes out. But it's not a Final Four contender, as Jay Bilas suggested today on ESPN.com. Next year, definitely. But for now the Spartans have too many weaknesses (inconsistent post play, depth issues, no dependable second scoring option).
I'm anxious to see what happens in Champaign tonight. It'd be a big win if MSU could pull it off. Illinois is not nearly as bad as its Big Ten record, and Assembly Hall is one of the three toughest places to play in the conference. Win or lose though, the big game is Saturday. MSU gets another shot at Ohio State in a CBS game on a day when Mateen Cleaves' jersey will be retired. The Breslin Center should be crazy, and MSU should be able to sneak out a victory.