Never Count Out Tom Izzo and Michigan State in March

SONG SELECTION:

Jenny Lewis, “Late Bloomer”

Released July 29, 2014 on The Voyager album from Warner Brothers Records

What is it about Michigan State and the month of March?
It seems like almost every year since Tom Izzo took over for the retiring Jud Heathcote, the Spartans (aka “Gang Green”) turn up the screws defensively and come up with the right blend of offensive talent to make a deep tournament run.

Last year, they tripped up in-state rival Michigan which stole away the Wolverines’ chances of locking down the final Number 1 seed.  In the process, the Spartans showed lots of heart and determination en route to an unexpected Final Four berth.

The latest Stock Up mention happened early on Sunday afternoon shortly after Xavier earned it four days ago in their upset win over Villanova, as Michigan State cruised easily past Penn State 88-57 in East Lansing.

It did not start out that way as the Spartans missed 12 out of their first 15 shots from the field.  National player of the year candidate Denzel Valentine slumped early missing his first six shots from the field, but still managed to lead the team in scoring with 19 points to go along with eight rebounds and dishing out six assists.

Michigan State has won four games in a row and are in a stretch of finding themselves winning 8 out of their last 9 contests.   The only loss in this recent span was a one point overtime loss to Purdue.

”Our defense and rebounding kept us in the game and that’s the way we have to win as we move forward…I think we’ve got a chance to make a run.”

Michigan State Head Coach Tom Izzo in postgame remarks after the game

For Penn State, their fighting spirit came back to briefly bite them.  Nittany Lions head coach Patrick Chambers argued with the referees one too many times and was ejected for picking up two consecutive technical fouls with 4:53 left in the first half.  By the time the first half buzzer sounded, it was garbage time as the Spartans cruised to a 52-27 halftime lead.

Coupled with Xavier getting the newest Stock Down label after their disappointing loss on the road at Seton Hall on Sunday afternoon, expect Michigan State to more than likely grab one of the four Number 1 seeds in two weeks.

The Desi Rodriguez Show lit up Xavier

Give credit also to the defense who barely let Xavier get off any quality shots on Senior Day in New Jersey.  The final score was 90-81, pretty much locking up the Pirates’ first NCAA bid in a decade.

Sophomore forward Desi Rodriguez tabulated career highs scoring 27 points to go along with 12 rebounds, while fellow sophomore point guard Isaiah Whitehead also came up huge with 22 points and Angel Delgado added 17 more.  The Pirates used 50 percent shooting to get the job done, while holding high flying Xavier to just 26 points in the entire first half.  In the process, Seton Hall scored 23 of the final 30 points before halftime to turn the game into a rout.

Although the Musketeers more than double their offensive output in the last 20 minutes outscoring Seton Hall by a whopping 55-45 margin, it was not enough in the end.  Xavier will have six days to lick their wounds before playing host to Creighton in the team’s final regular season game on Saturday, while Seton Hall will not get much time to savor this win as the Pirates put their 21-7 overall mark (11-5 in Big East play) on the road at legendary Hinkle Fieldhouse on Wednesday night to take on Butler, another team just like Seton Hall looking to bolster its’ tournament resume before the Big East tournament starts at MSG in New York on Wednesday, March 9.

The other upsets of note on Sunday was Pitt outlasting Duke 76-62 as the Blue Devils offense continues to sputter on the road, and Ohio State keeping their Big Ten hopes alive with a 66-62 close shave win over Iowa.

Look for Thad Matta’s Buckeyes to be featured in my next edition of “Under The Microscope” in the coming days, along with another school to be determined.

Enjoy the rest of your Sunday.  Please don’t cry too hard during the Oscars, we need you to save those much needed tears for Selection Sunday in two weeks.

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