Empire State of Mind for Theirry Henry

Henry & Nash

By Alex Simon

The Thierry Henry to MLS rumor resurfaced over the weekend. According to the Daily Mail, Henry will look for a new challenge after the World Cup with the 32-year old excited at the prospect of playing football in one of the world’s biggest cities in New York.

For some time now, Henry has stated he would eventually like to play in the states. However, this report is the first to put a timeline on when Henry would come to Major League Soccer. Henry has stated numerous times that he loves New York and would not be willing to play for any other MLS club but the Red Bulls. Given this and the many subsequent reports, the Thierry Henry Watch is now in full effect.Red Bull?

There has only been one other player close to Henry’s worldwide popularity to play in MLS, David Beckham. There has been much debate whether Beckham coming to America has been a success. While Beckham has sold out jerseys and stadiums, the Galaxy have not been competitive until this year. I believe it is still too early to decide if Beckham’s influence was a positive one for MLS and soccer in America.

Beckham may be a heartthrob and a fashion mogul, but Henry has something to offer that Beckham can never, scoring goals. The few well-informed soccer fans in the U.S. understand that you do not have to score a goal to have a good game. However, this would be a non-issue regarding the Frenchman. Henry is a forward, and scoring goals is what he does best. If Juan Pablo Angel can put up impressive numbers in MLS, there is no telling the damage Henry could do to opposing defenders. My guess is to expect video game-like numbers if Henry were to come play here.

We learned that one guy can’t change the way Americans look at soccer, but Henry’s goal scoring would bring more awareness to the game than Beckham’s occasional free kick strike. Whether you like soccer or not, most people are fans of scoring. SportsCenter is not going to put a nice Beckham cross in their highlight-reel, but Henry putting one in the back of the net, now that is something to work with.

Why Michigan St Plays for the Title

By Paul M. Banks

Heading into Saturday’s Final Four, much has been made of MSU’s home-court advantage in Detroit, but the “intangible” if you believe in such things as a deciding factor being slightly under-reported is the dark cloud of scandal hanging over the heads of the UConn program.

They may just fold up shop, like Indiana did down the stretch last season when the stench of Kelvin “Mr. Telephone Man” Sampson’s corruption sent the Hoosiers into a serious downfall.

The Spartans were not favored to beat Louisville, but the played lights-out defense and dominated the Cardinals down the stretch. I respect the talent of Hasheem Thabeet and A.J. Price, but I don’t think the team has enough left in the tank to overcome the maladaptive mental factors that will be plaguing them on the nation’s brightest stage.

I also think North Carolina will cruise in their semifinal, setting up a rematch of a VERY one-sided game held in December- at the very same venue. UNC utterly routed Sparty in a game that was even more lopsided than the box score indicates. Look for it to be much closer this time, especially since Izzo will have his Suton, as in Goran Suton for this match, and that makes a huge difference.

As Illinois Coach Bruce Weber articulated, the gist of Michigan State is…

“Suton is the key to them, he’s a fifth year senior, he’s strong, physical and really improved as a player. Their deep and they can keep coming at you with a lot of people, a lot of different weapons.”

Weber wasn’t able to solve Sparty during their two meetings this season and after the second loss, he spoke all about Kalin Lucas, the Big Ten player of the year, and the outside threat complementing Suton inside.

“He’s as quick a player as anyone in the country, it’s kind of back to the days when snow was there and Mateen Cleaves and he’s got ‘em running up and down. The big ten sometimes gets a knock for not running up and down and playing transition basketball but Michigan State to me has always been one of the best teams in the country as far as fast breaking.”

I asked him if the best player on conference champ Michigan St. Kalin Lucas reminded him of Dee Brown, his recent superstar point guard, being that both were usually the quickest guy in the court

“He does, from top of the key to top of the key, he gets there really quick, and it puts you in a bind, puts you on your heels, he might be quicker than Eric Snow or Mateen Cleaves, he seems like one of those little bugs that just flies down. And they work at it. Tom and I talk a lot of times about the league and the image, you know we all try to run, it’s just that in the league you get a great home court advantage, with the filled arenas, people guard in our league and they take things away because they prepare and they take away that transition.
I’m not saying Sparty will run the table in 8 Mile next weekend, but this team does share a lot of similarities to the 2000 National Title team.

-Both got better as the season went on, and had some embarrassing losses early. The title team lost to Wright St. in pre-conference, freaking Wright St. This team got thrashed by both Maryland and UNC early on. Both teams recovered to play their best ball when it mattered most

-Each of these teams possessed lot of versatility and were able to generate many different lineups from their wings and run those lineups effectively. This team can play different tempos when the situation calls for it and the title team displayed that in the Final Four, drubbing Wisconsin 53-41 in stall-ball before out-running Florida 89-76.

-Role players excel and provide critical lifts at opportune times. 2000: we had Aloysius Anagone, A.J. Granger, Mike Chappel, and Jason Richardson (remember he was mostly awful his freshman year, but became his star during his sophomore campaign. This season: Durrell Summers, Delvon Roe and Chris Allen have carried this unit at times.

-Each unit had balls bounce their way and survived scares to reach the b-ball promised land. The 2000 team’s victories over Marcus Fizer/Jamaal Tinsley’s Iowa St. team in the elite 8 was much closer than the final score. Ditto for the sweet 16 round versus Syracuse. Both Spartan teams were in deep trouble with under 5 minutes to go, but played out of their mind down the stretch.  This year’s team was quite fortunate to survive Arizona. Not to mention that both teams had Detroit as a portion of their Final 4 journey. The 2000 team played the second weekend at the Auburn Hills Palace while this team takes the court in Ford Field.

Michigan State Now Midwest’s Premier Program

By Paul M. Banks

Before it was an environmental clarion call spouted by business and government leaders everywhere, the phrase “go green” was the Michigan State Spartans’ battle cry.

For those lucky enough to be in Detroit this weekend (Yes, it’s weird describing Detroit as a coveted destination) you’ll hear lots of “go green” and “go white” as MSU becomes the first team to play in the Final Four in their home state since Duke laced them up in Charlotte in 1994. When Tom “H to tha” Izzo brings his Spartans to Ford Field, a venue 92 miles from their campus, his resume will include 11 straight NCAA appearances, 5 Final Fours in those 11 years, a National Championship in 2000 and a 30-10 overall tournament record. With the recent collapse of the Indiana Hoosier program, Sparty has become the Big Ten’s (and the Midwest in general) finest program. No other team from the heartland is a March Madness fixture like the Spartans, with Izzo preparing each and every one of his recruited four-year players for Final Four glory. But this success is a more recent phenomenon.

State wasn’t admitted into the Big Ten until 1995 and the nation didn’t really “Meet the Spartans” until the Jud Heathcote era (1976-1995). They weren’t considered a power until the 1979 National championship- when Magic Johnson, Greg Kelser and company defeated Larry Bird’s Indiana St. team in the highest watched game in college history. This established East Lansing as a haven for stellar guard play. The list includes Steve Smith, Scott Skiles, Eric Snow, Shawn Respert, Mateen Cleaves, Charlie Bell, Jason Richardson, Shannon Brown, Drew Neitzel and current Big Ten player of the year Kalin Lucas. Lucas spoke about his conversations with Mateen Cleaves, the floor general on the last Spartan championship team. “Mateen tells me this is my team and I have to be the general, I have to run the team, I have to give guys shots, but I also have to get my shots,” Lucas said.

The hard-line Izzo leads teams that get better as the season progresses and excel in rebounding (currently first nationally) and defense. “Defense can be measured in a lot of ways: points allowed, opposing field goal percentage, but it’s almost like what Jay Bilas says about heart, you measure it when things are on the line. And I thought down the stretch our defense is getting better, it’s been pretty solid when we’ve had the right lineups in there,” Izzo said