EAST LANSING - There can be no question that, despite a 22-6 (10-5 conference), record heading into Sunday's home finale against Indiana, Michigan State is disappointed in their record.
The Spartans have yet to figure out a way to win on the road against a ranked opponent and that's not just a 2008 phenomenon. MSU hasn't won a road game against a ranked opponent in the last two seasons (2006 at Ohio State).
Still, there's a lot of good to be found in this year's team heading into the Big Ten and NCAA tournament bids that are certain to come.
Freshman Kalin Lucas gives Coach Tom Izzo a security blanket. Izzo knows that he has a true playmaker in Lucas, a point guard who can score and push the ball up the floor in a hurry - more on that later.
Freshman Chris Allen has also shown flashes of his great shooting touch and appears to be ready to take over the outside shooting role vacated by Drew Neitzel, who's nightmare senior season has cost him a ton of money.
Freshman Durrell Summers looks as if he could contribute off the bench as a super sixth man and senior Drew Naymick (2-for-2 and three blocks against UW) has been rock solid in the post (if only he would shoot more often).
And for all his up-and-down play this season, Goran Suton settled down big time in a 14-point, 15-rebound, two turnover performance against Wisconsin.
In my eyes, this MSU team appears to be built more for an NCAA tournament run than for the physical Big Ten wars. MSU has a team full of greyhounds and it appears the only thing standing in their way is a change in scheme.
This Michigan State team appears built to run and it seems a change in the style of play is inevitable.
The Spartans don't have the tough physical inside scoring punch they had from a Paul Davis, Andre Hutson or even a Alan Anderson, so why not let Lucas, who Izzo admits is the fastest point guard he's ever had at MSU, unleash a running game?
If the Spartans want to go this route, they'll still have to do two things that have hampered them all season - rebound the basketball and make solid outlet passes.
Once the ball is into the hands of Lucas, MSU has finishers in Raymar Morgan, Allen, Summers and forward Goran Suton, and I like the idea of Neitzel spotting up for threes on the break too.
I don't believe this MSU team is dead, as some talking heads seem to believe, but I think a more up-tempo style would suit the current personnel. Would Marquise Gray respond to a simplified role emphasizing getting to the glass?
Tom Izzo has forgotten more about coaching than I'll ever know, but it sure would be nice to see the Green-and-White try to get some easy baskets instead of grinding so much, especially on the road.
Still, we fully expect that Michigan State will put together a solid run in the NCAA tournament and that Izzo's philosphy of taking on tough teams early, will pay dividends as it has in the past.
Get the Spartans out on a neutral floor in an up-tempo environment and those greyhounds are going to run and flourish.
OPINION: Change Of Pace Might Help Spartans
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