By: Charles Ranspach
After Michigan State cruised past UCONN, we got the matchup that everyone in the country was waiting for, when it comes to the Victory Bracket. Michigan State vs. North Carolina.
Tom Izzo had never beaten Roy Williams. That all changed in an absolute defensive dominant game from the Spartans. They won 63-45. Joshua Langford led all scorers with 23 points, in a variety of ways.
Here are a few overreactions to the win over UNC and UCONN:
Cassius “Cash” Winston is the most important player:
It is fun watching Cash play. He sees the court well, makes passes that would impress Steve Nash, and can shoot (a combination that we haven’t had for awhile in a PG).
I hear all of you saying (in a really whiney voice) “but Tum Tum is the upperclassmen and the team leader.”
Sorry to tell you this, but you can lead from the bench. All I need for Tum Tum to do is play 15 minutes of upbeat ball. What happens when Cash gets those minutes instead? Well, it was shown perfectly in this tournament, seeing as he won the MVP. Cash can score due to a great pull up shot, but can also run the half court to perfection, and loves to get out on the fast break. Cash is my man. He still has some issues to work on, like slowing down a little bit before passing, but this is the man that will make Bridges, Ward, Jackson, and others look much better. That is a fun thought.
Nick Ward was the best player in the UNC win:
It may not look like it when you look at the stats, but Nick Ward was, in fact, the best player in this game. Whoever he was guarding was absolutely shut down. He had four blocked shots and I saw him jump higher than I have ever seen a big man jump. He was playing angry (most likely due to the fact that he committed two stupid fouls against UCONN and sat for a whole half.) I felt very comfortable every time the ball got down low and Ward was the defender. I saw somewhere that this is a tape that Tom Izzo will show his team every time that he gets worried they are starting to slack off. Nick Ward should take this tape and put it on a loop in his room so that he can remember that this is how a big man plays.
Dont worry, Bridges and Jackson will get there:
It has been a little frustrating this year with these two. You have Jackson Jr. who will have one fantastic game, followed by an absolute dud. In the UNC game, he had a quick two fouls that kept him off the court and out of any rhythm, this comes with being a freshman. But there is no doubt that he will be an absolute stud at the end of the year and fans like myself can only hope Miles Bridges has started a trend with the MSU team and he will stick around another year.
Now Bridges, on the other hand, is another story. Everyone knows what he can do, HE knows what he needs to do. Yet, a slow start and an injury have kept him from playing the perimeter on offense and not attacking.
That being said, his defense has been on point. Bridges is basically relearning how to play the 3, that will take some time. This is where the Tom Izzo schedule (a mix of top-tier competition, and mid-majors) benefits his team. Bridges can use the cupcake games to find a rhythm and use the bigger games to refine the skill. He will be in the NPOY convo at the end of the year, I have no doubt about that. I am ready to see it though…
I forgot how fun blocks are:
It has been awhile since an MSU team has blocked this many shots at this point in the season. A block is such an energy boost. Whether it is a block on a run-out, or one while the defender is being backed down, or one that comes from the help side, it seems to energize the team and crowd and feels like a huge boost. Every time it happens I jump out of my seat and scream along with the players. I love being that couch coach and making sure the team feels my energy.
MSU will have another big test against Notre Dame on Thursday in the B1G Ten/ACC challenge, tip-off is at 7:00pm at the Breslin Center. Hopefully, the defense that we saw against UNC will show up again.