Michigan State manhandled
I didn't expect Michigan State's season to end like it did Friday, and neither did you. Memphis was the better team. More talented, more athletic. We knew that going in. Still, to win that easily, to lead 50-20 at halftime, there's no suitable explanation for one of the Big Ten's best programs to get beat like that in the Sweet 16.
Players denied it after the game, but I saw a scared Michigan State team Friday. Drew Neitzel passed up his first good look at the basket and only attempted eight shots for the night. Raymar Morgan wilted in the face of pressure. Kalin Lucas played like a freshman early, while his classmate counterpart Derrick Rose looked ready for the NBA (he is).
Memphis, on the other hand, was out to prove a point. The Tigers came into the weekend feeling disrespected as pundits dissected their game. They made nearly every shot they took early (free throws included), harassed MSU defensively and left an impression with three highlight-reel dunks in the first half.
Because the game ended so late, I didn't get any Tom Izzo quotes in my story, but MSU's coach was teary-eyed in defeat.
"It's hard to figure out how you feel after a damn good year and we just didn't have a very good first half, and that's probably one of the understatements of the year," Izzo said. "The better team won, they played well and hopefully we'll learn from this and move on."
As for next year, expect MSU to contend for a Big Ten title and one or two seed. The Spartans won't be Memphis-ly athletic, but they are getting young and quicker both on the perimeter and in the frontcourt (assuming Delvon Roe heals from micro-fracture knee surgery). Lucas, despite his struggles Friday, has a bright future ahead, and Chris Allen (20 points) played his best game of the year. If you're looking for an X-factor keep in mind Goran Suton, who scored 23 points on 11-of-14 shooting and grabbed nine rebounds against Memphis. Suton is the most skilled returning post player in the Big Ten, and he seemed to find something this March that could portend to a great senior season.