Max Christie Key to Michigan State Ruining Coach K. Swan Song

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All season long, you’ve heard this familiar refrain- Michigan State does not have a true alpha dog. They don’t have a leading man, or a closer, but on certain nights different guys step up. Freshman Max Christie, a McDonald’s All-American and 5-star prospect, has been that in some games. Other nights it’s Gabe Brown, or Marcus Bingham Jr. Last night it was Joey Hauser, a guy who hasn’t come close to living up to expectations, but really brought it in the late night win over good old friend Foster Loyer and Davidson.

Seventh seeded Michigan State beat tenth seeded Davidson, 74-73, in a very exciting and tightly contested March Madness contest. Hauser led the way for the Spartans, with 27 points on 9-12 shooting, 4-6 from three. A.J. Hoggard added 14, on 6-9 shooting. Max Christie was basically invisible against the Wildcats, going 1-6 from the floor and scoring just two points.

He has to be a lot better against #2 seed and overall tournament favorite Duke. If you’re betting, like you would at gclub, then you’ll see Duke favored -6.5 for this 5:15 EST, Sun March 20, tip on CBS. MSU could make this Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s final game ever, but they’ll need Christie to live up to his potential in order to do so. The television announcers will be all about Coach K. glamorizing and celebrating him whenever they can. One of his former players, Grant Hill is actually calling the game. It’s on gang green to ruin the lovefest. Christie has had his ups and downs this year, and while he is a blue-chip NBA prospect, his stats say he’s not quite ready to jump this year.

“One thing about Max, it’s been a little bit of a tough year on him, but he draws the best,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said at the Big Ten Tournament.

“When we played Illinois, Frazier’s on him. You play Purdue, their best defender’s on him. We play Wisconsin, Brad Davis is on him. And if you watch how they played him, they turned him down, they didn’t let him get the ball.

“I thought for Max’s future, he’s proving that he can defend, he can rebound, he can make free throws, he does a lot of things. Everybody knows he can score the ball and nobody more than me, even though maybe it hasn’t been quite that kind of a — especially last three weeks.”

“But Max is still going to go off offensively. What’s amazing is as a freshman, his stamina, he’s able to do what he’s able to do because he’s running that lane. I’m even playing him at the point some trying to get him some shots and he’s also checking the best players every night.”

Very true, Christie is an excellent defender and he’ll be on Duke’s best and brightest tomorrow as well. It’s a major major test for him, but it will help him grow as a player.

Max Christie discussed what State has to do to pull off a big upset.

“I think it’s built a little bit toughness and greatness to make sure we need to realize we need to close out these games and really lock in at the end of the game,” he said.

Last night was about survive and advance, period. In order to do that here, against a much more formidable opponent, the Spartans will need to bring it even more. Max Christie will need to be the best he can be.

Paul M. Banks is the owner/manager of The Bank (TheSportsBank.Net) and author of “Transatlantic Passage: How the English Premier League Redefined Soccer in America,” as well as “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry.”

He has regularly appeared in WGNSports Illustrated and the Chicago Tribune, and co-hosts the After Extra Time podcastFollow him on Twitter and Instagram

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