Monday, September 20, 2021

Spartans have positives and negatives

March 14, 2011

Anthony Odoardi

After winning an outright Big Ten championship for the first time in school history, seniors Kalisha Keane, Brittney Thomas and Cetera Washington know they left their mark, but entering the postseason they want to turn that dent into a permanent scratch.

After securing the Big Ten title, the school’s first No. 1 seed in the Big Ten Tournament and a host of individual awards including the Big Ten Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and Coach of the Year, the Spartans have their sights set on making a run at the national title.

The only question that truly remains about this team is do they have the ability to do so?

Can they win six consecutive games against the nations best teams?

Can they hang for 40 minutes with Connecticut, Baylor and Tennessee? And can they defend the Maya Moores and the Brittney Griners?

That’s not an easy question to answer, but let’s break it down.

Why they can’t win:
Product of the schedule
With a Connecticut team that just finished mounting up 90 consecutive wins and a Baylor team that has the meanest center in the nation, you’re going to pick the Spartans to win?

Who cares about their accomplishments, it was a down year in the Big Ten, right?

They lost three games to Ohio State, which really is the only serious tournament contender in the conference. Not only that, but they played Baylor and got blown out.

OK, I’m being a little overdramatic. But it’s a serious question.

MSU head coach Suzy Merchant said there were no top tiers of teams in the conference this year, but is that really a good thing? That the conference was good top to bottom, but no teams were truly great.

Nothing wrong with that, but it definitely produces questions heading into the Big Dance.
Foul trouble*
If fouling was a criminal offense and punishment was dealt out based on how many you commit, the Spartans would get 25 years to life. And the main culprit would be junior forward Lykendra Johnson, who they can least afford to lose.

Johnson frequently picks up two quick fouls and finds herself benched for the first half.

If the Spartans have any shot, it will be unacceptable for Johnson to only play five minutes in the first half.

Why they can win:
Playing MSU might be a matchup nightmare for opponents. The Spartans can beat you in so many ways it will make a coaches head spin.

Although they lack size, Johnson and Washington still have led the way for the team to outrebound opponents by an 8.5 margin, which is on pace to set a program record. If they are struggling, the Spartans can spread the floor and shoot. Each player, tall or short, is capable of making a 3-pointer.

If the Spartans work the matchups as they have done all season, they certainly could be bound for Indianapolis.

It’s been reiterated time and time again this season, but the experience and senior leadership on this team might be unmatched by any in the country.

It’s a group that MSU head coach Suzy Merchant has called “eighth-year seniors” with all of the minutes they’ve racked up during their careers at MSU.

They never have won less than 20 games in a season and have four years of experience in the NCAA Tournament.

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That résumé includes an upset as a No. 8 seed against No. 1-seeded Duke in 2009 against their former coach Joanne P. McCallie.

With three loses to the Buckeyes, the Spartans are now an experienced, pissed off team with the best player in the Big Ten, best defensive player and best coach. You bet against them if you want, but MSU is out to prove it belongs.


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