Washington - Midwestern basketball fans probably know who MSU sophomore guard Marcus Taylor is. His emergence as the Spartans leader and gaudy numbers make him tough to ignore.
Eastern basketball enthusiasts know all about North Carolina State guard Anthony Grundy. Wolfpack fans have seen him lead their team in the three major statistical categories - points, rebounds and assists - and opponents fans have seen him terrorize defense after defense.
Eastern hoops fans, meet Taylor. Midwest fans, meet Grundy.
But when the seventh-seeded Wolfpack (22-10) tangle with the 10th-seeded Spartans (19-11) in first-round action in the NCAA Tournament at 12:15 p.m. today at MCI Center, the two players will introduce their games to the nation.
Everything weve done has been kind of regional, Taylor said. This is a chance to shine in front of the whole country, and I just want to make the most of it.
Taylor excelled in Big Ten conference play, leading the conference in scoring and assists by averaging 17.7 points and five assists in conference games.
Grundy has had the best season of his four-year career for the Wolfpack, helping give N.C. State its first NCAA Tournament berth in 11 years. His 17.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists were team highs and all came while leading the team on the defensive end with 68 steals.
His all-around season earned Grundy a spot on the All-Atlantic Coast Conference first team and honorable mention All-America honors.
The 6-foot-3 senior said its nice to have the chance to show the country what he can do, but helping get the Wolfpack back into the NCAA Tournament is more meaningful than the personal recognition.
Its special. But its been a special season, he said. For us to turn our program around and for me to be a pillar of that is special and something Ill always hold on to.
Grundy and special often collide in sentences about the Wolfpack guard.
Anthony Grundy is a special player, MSU head coach Tom Izzo said. I dont think weve faced anyone like him.
Izzo said Grundys versatility makes him difficult to defend.
This guys their best post player in my opinion, he said. He can post you up and hurt you, or he can hit threes and hurt you.
And Izzo has also seen his own 6-3 guard elevate his game and become a special player. And his teammates have seen Taylor blossom too, and have benefited from it.
They understand that hes our best player, Izzo said. But what hes really done a great job of lately is getting everyone else more into the game.
When that happens, you get to be a complete player.