It maybe single digit high temperatures and subzero wind chills in East Lansing, Michigan right now, but the Michigan State Spartans should look to make it Durrell “Summers summer, summertime Time to sit back and unwind” if they are to start living up to their preseason hype. Apologies for quoting Will Smith. Really, that was my bad I know.
The Spartans were preseason #2, but they have three losses already on this young season.
None of their losses have been particularly bad: they took #6 UConn down to the wire, they hung with #1 Duke at Cameron Indoor for about 35 minutes (and could probably win that game today now that it would be played without Kyrie Irving who ripped them apart for 31 points). And although Tuesday night’s loss to Syracuse wasn’t pretty, playing the #8 team in the nation in their home state is always a tough task.
But if State is truly an elite team, they should win two, or at least one of those college basketball games. Either way, this brutal schedule will once again get them ready for March. Tom Izzo always schedules hard, and that always makes his team a force come tournament time.
“They kind of give us different looks from what we see in the Big Ten in terms of how they guard our ball screens, or how to guard theirs, and also the type of personnel,” Summers said about the rugged non-conference slate.
“Around one and done time, you can’t say you got another game in the morning. It’s not like a AAU tourney, you have to have that sharp focus,” Summer said before mentioning a favorite phrase that Izzo likes to say to his players: “get me through the first game and I’ll get you through the weekend,” Summers said.
Everyone knows all about Tom Izzo being “Mr. March,” but the very under-reported converse of that is…his teams often struggle in November/December. This year isn’t as bad as the year they won the national title yet somehow also lost to Wright St. in the preconference, but they haven’t looked good either.
One way for this team to really hit it’s groove would be for the senior swingman Summers to be more of a consistent scorer. He averaged 18.4 ppg during the last NCAA tournament, and he could have been the tourney MOP had State been the team cutting down the nets.
But Summers also disappears for substantial periods of time. He’s the team’s leading scorer at 14.9 ppg, but if he could improve upon his dreadful 61% FT, and be more consistent in attacking the basket and drawing those fouls, he could easily average 20 a game. Summers is most dangerous in the open court, so if the bigs could improve their defensive rebounding and get it out to him in transition, good things will happen.
It starts with Draymond Green, the team’s leading rebounder, and surprisingly the Spartan with the best assist to turnover ratio. And arguably the team’s best passer.
So what’s the key to getting back to the promised land? At least according to Summers:
“Keep our team close knit, like it already is and keep pushing each other. Our scout team, our white team, they could be starters anywhere else and they give us great looks and they’re not scared to come after us on the green team and help us get better.”
You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank
He also does a regular guest spot each week for Chicagoland Sports Radio.comFollow paulmbanks