As I articulated in the first part of this feature, the Michigan State college basketball season is ostensibly over. (Follow that link for more detail, but if your only colors are green and white I’m warning you now: “there’s no comfort in the truth, pain is all you’ll find,” as George Michael told us in the 1980s)
State’s packing it in is no longer news to anyone close the program; the latest no-show at Carver-Hawkeye Arena cemented their ticket not to the NCAAs, but the NIT (if they can get 3-4 more wins this season), or more likely the second division of the Big Ten. Without hyperbole, you can say Wednesday night was the worst loss of the Tom Izzo era and it makes you wonder if there’s any confidence remaining in that locker room these days. Meaning it’s already time to start thinking about next year.
And with that, time to start taking a hard look at the host of issues surrounding the current roster.
By Paul M. Banks
-Derrick Nix was the lone bright spot for State Wednesday night, with a career high 12 points and 5 rebounds. Unfortunately, you can’t build around him (at least not now) because his severe weight problem prohibits him from playing major minutes. They said he lost some LBs in the offseason, but he still looks plenty portly. And good luck generating a consistent interior game centered around a guy whose free throw shooting makes Ben Wallace and Shaq’s %s look good.
-Delvon Roe’s offensive numbers are rather putrid this season. Sure, he’s getting it done on the defensive end, maybe about as well as anyone in the conference, but how are his knees holding up? Did he ever really heal from last year and does that explain his lack of productivity? One wonders if he’ll ever be the same.
-Is Draymond Green going to have to carry the load from now on? What’s his senior year in E.L. going to be like if that is the case? He says all the right things to the media, but you have to wonder how he’ll feel as this ship continues taking on more and more water. And is he even talented or consistent enough to be a go to guy at a premier program in the first place? Someone will have to be the leader and main weapon when Kalin Lucas is gone next year.
-Korie Lucious was kicked off the team for this season, and as the losing continues, maybe he’ll reconsider coming back next year. Numerous press conferences contain Izzo quotes that make it sound like he and Durrell Summers have some kind of passive-aggressive strife going on. Are they truly at odds with each other? How does Summers feel right now about his decision to come back to school for his senior season? Izzo is right about Summers’ lack of effort on defense though; it seems to deteriorate further with each game. Wednesday night he really lolly-gagged a couple times getting back on the defensive end. And Iowa made Summers’ team pay with easy transition baskets.
-Has anyone fallen as low or as fast as Summers? Had MSU gotten that non-call down the stretch of the Butler game and advanced to the title game, and somehow taken out Duke, you know who would have been NCAA Tournament M.O.P? Yes, it would have been Summers time. And he had pretty solid NBA Draft stock last spring. Today, he has D League written all over him.
-And what about Izzo himself? Why does it look like his players have quit on him? Has his tough love and hard-line approach now crossed over into despotic tyranny? Do his players resent his approach? Maybe his emotional and straight-shooter demeanor is back-firing on him now, the same way it ultimately did for Bobby Knight during his final years in Indiana. The fiery act wears thin when you’re losing.
Ultimately, the buck stops with Izzo. That’s where you can start playing the blame game. If he can’t get the most out of his talent then something is wrong with motivational techniques. He sure has the resume though: 6 Final Fours in 12 years. Wow. Simply excellence at the highest level of the college game; and it was a hell of a run, but we all knew it had to close out at some point.
Things will get worse before they get better. But it may not last all that long.
You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank