Thursday, May 23, 2024

MSU overcomes long odds to reach Detroit

The MSU men’s basketball team defeated No. 1-seed Louisville 64-52 on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium to advance to the Final Four. Senior center Goran Suton, who was named as the Midwest Regional’s Most Outstanding Player, had 19 points and 10 rebounds. Sophomore guards Durrell Summers (12 points) and Kalin Lucas (10) also scored in double-figures for the Spartans, who play Connecticut (31-4) at 6:07 p.m. Saturday at Ford Field in Detroit.

Indianapolis — This wasn’t what was supposed to happen.

At least, that’s what they said.

And by “they,” I mean everyone.

The MSU men’s basketball team can’t shoot. It doesn’t have a go-to player. The Spartans have trouble winning on the road. (Even though they’re 9-1 on the road and now 9-3 at neutral sites. I’m still trying to figure that one out). They can’t play fast because they play in the slow Big Ten.

Heck, even their own coach labeled them “fragile” throughout the year.

Combine all that with the fact that the Spartans were playing Louisville, the Big East regular-season champions. And the Big East Tournament champions. Oh, and yes, the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.

They were toast before they even stepped on the court.

At least they were supposed to be.

Before the game, senior guard Travis Walton said he overheard some of the Louisville players talking about the victory parade and what they were going to wear to it.

After the game, Walton was wearing a Final Four shirt with a piece of the Lucas Oil Stadium net tied around a Final Four hat.

The Louisville players were wearing tears — and they weren’t tears of joy.

“You can’t do that to a good team,” Walton said on the court after MSU’s 64-52 win. “They’re a good basketball team and we’re a good basketball team. They have a good coach and we have a good coach. You just can’t say that.”

Especially about an MSU program that was playing in its sixth Elite Eight in 11 seasons. That’s the most in the nation.

It’s also a program that is now going to its fifth Final Four in 11 seasons. Again, the most in the nation.

Am I missing something?

“When you’re trying to get something special, there’s going to be a lot of people that doubt you,” freshman forward Delvon Roe said. “We were able to quiet all the doubters.”

There’s a fine line in going about accusing someone of disrespect. Analysts picking Louisville to beat the Spartans wasn’t one of those cases.

Even head coach Tom Izzo admitted the Cardinals were the better team.

Roe, sophomore guard Durrell Summers, junior forward Raymar Morgan and freshman forward Draymond Green all said what they were supposed to when asked about it.

“We don’t care what people think about us,” Summers said.

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“That’s their job, man, they’re just doing their job. I can’t be mad,” Morgan said.

“We can’t dwell on what they have to say, we just have to go out and play ball,” Green said.

Those were the comments in the locker room about 45 minutes after the game ended.

On the court, minutes after earning a berth to the Final Four — an accomplishment Green said Walton would’ve killed himself for — Walton was a little more honest.

He mentioned the parade plans. He also mentioned ESPN analyst Digger Phelps, who has become public enemy No. 1 amongst the team and MSU fans. He mentioned them, but he also said it doesn’t matter what outsiders think.

“We’re a family and that’s all that matters,” Walton said.

“If your family believes in you, that’s all that matters.”

Walton. Izzo. Earvin “Magic” Johnson. You.

They all believed. Even when they shouldn’t have.


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