Wisconsin went into East Lansing on Thursday night and had their hopes of winning the Big Ten’s regular season title dashed.
The Spartans used a 14-0 run midway through the first half to open up a double-digit lead on the Badgers, one they stretched out to 20 points during the second half before ultimately winning 69-55. The win pushed Tom Izzo’s team back into a tie with Ohio State for first place in the conference standings while dropping Wisconsin, who came in winners of seven of their last eight, two games off the pace.
The question has been asked a number of times — just how good is this Michigan State team? Are they Final Four caliber? Can they win a national title?
The latter two questions are simple to answer: yes they are and yes they can. That’s what happens when you have Tom Izzo as a head coach. There are few coaches in the country that are as talented as he is at preparing a game-plan and making halftime adjustments to it. Throw in the fact that his best teams always play hard and excel at the things they can control — hustle, rebounding, defense — and there is a good reason why Izzo always seems to have success in the NCAA Tournament.
This year’s group? They are about as “Tom Izzo” as a basketball team can get.
So yes, they are capable of putting together a run in the NCAA Tournament. The reason I think they will make that run is a guy by the name of Draymond Green. Green finished Thursday night’s game with 20 points, 10 boards and five assists on 5-9 shooting from the field. On the season he is not averaged 15.2 ppg, 10.6 rpg and 3.6 apg. The last player to averaged 15 points, 10 boards and three assists was Tim Duncan. That’s pretty good company to be in, and that doesn’t account for the fact that Green is not only one of the better defenders on Michigan State’s roster, he is the unquestioned leader and, excuse the cliche, a coach on the floor for the Spartans.
And Green, as of now, is also my pick for Big Ten Player of the Year.
With all due respect to Jared Sullinger and as much as I love watching guys like John Shurna, Cody Zeller and Trey Burke, no one does as much for their team as Green does.