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Issue 1453 March 17, 2012
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Can Spartans Top Memphis, Missou & Kentucky? If So, Green May Reign in NCAA

March 11, 2012       Leave a Comment
By: Dave Rogers

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The Spartans have the stuff to get by both Memphis and Missouri, with a little bit of Irish luck, of course.

The unpredictable Michigan State Spartans probably will face a tough Memphis team in the third round of the NCAA tourney.

Then, the Missouri Tigers threaten perhaps in the finals of the West bracket.

The Spartans have the stuff to get by both Memphis and Missouri, with a little bit of Irish luck, of course.

Is a final four showing again in store for the Green and White?

Perhaps their chances are as good as any time in the past few years to win a title, although the tough defending Kentucky Wildcats may bar the championship door when all is said and done.

By beating both Wisconsin and Ohio State in the last two games of the Big Ten Tourney, the Spartans not only showed they can scrap with the best, they can eke out the close victories needed to win the NCAAs.

Until just recently that quality had not surfaced to the greatest extent. Perhaps the adversity of losing frosh sensation Branden Dawson stiffened their spines, and brought Brandon Wood to the fore.

The senior transfer from Valparaiso stuck it to the Buckeyes with a career high 21 points on Sunday, leading MSU to a 68-64 nail biter.

The Spartans caught a break when Buckeye All American Jared Sullinger missed the front end of a one and one that would have closed his team to one possession late in the game.

Josh Martin in the Bleacher Report gave credit where due:

"The Spartans wouldn't have survived poor performances from (Draymond) Green and (Keith) Appling without the spectacular contributions of Brandon Wood. The senior transfer from Valparaiso scored a season-high 21 points on 8-of-14 shooting, including four three-pointers, just a week removed from tallying 15 points against this very same OSU squad.

"Green may be the MVP of the Big Ten tourney, but Wood deserves some serious credit for getting MSU over the hump in the end."

That win gave MSU a No. 1 seed in the West Region, relegating Missouri to second seed. But the Spartans need to take care of one group of Tigers before facing the other.

The Memphis Tigers, eighth seed in the West Region, will play ninth-seeded Saint Louis Friday in Columbus, Ohio. If Memphis (26-8) advances, the Tigers then would face Big Ten tournament champ and top-seeded Michigan State.

Memphis goes into the tournament having won seven straight games by more than 22 points per game. The Tigers have notched their second straight NCAA berth under coach Josh Pastner.

Make no mistake, this is a tough Tiger team and no cakewalk even for the surging Spartans.

The Tigers lost in the opening round last year 77-75 to Arizona. They reached the regional semifinals in 2009 with an overtime loss to Kansas in the 2008 national championship under former coach John Calipari.

The Missouri Tigers' top player, Laurence Bowers, was lost for the entire season with a knee injury.

New coach Frank Haith was forced to adjust the team's playing style and he moved to a 4-guard system. Even with a size disadvantage against nearly every team they faced, the Tigers were able to develop one of the most efficient offensive teams in the nation.

The quickness of point guards Phil Pressey and Michael Dixon, and efficiency of Ricardo Ratliffe allowed Missouri to shoot 50 percent plus from the floor and average more than 80 points per game.

Marcus Denmon, tops in scoring and second in rebounding shot 46 percent from the floor. The Kansas City product is a finalist for the John Wooden award honoring the best player in the nation.

Missouri went 13-0 non-conference, including wins against California and Notre Dame, as well as a victory against Villanova in New York and one against Illinois.

Can the Spartans, like their ancient namesakes, fend off two teams of Tigers and contend with the Kentucky Wildcats for the title?

Given recent stellar performances and barring injury to key players, the Green and White could just possibly be cutting down the nets in April as NCAA champs. I wouldn't bet against them! ###

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Dave Rogers

Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
respected journalist/writer in and around Bay City.
(Contact Dave Via Email at

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