No matter what record the Spartans finish the season with, many will still point to the disappointment of losing two games at the Breslin Center to Northwestern and Penn State. The Big Ten season is only half complete, but it is hard not to wonder "what if?" — especially considering the fact that MSU could easily be 9-0 and have a commanding conference lead.
Even with losing their second consecutive game at home, MSU players and coaches are keeping their minds on the positive instead dwelling on the negative.
"We've still beaten a lot of very good teams, so we know we can play with anybody," Coach Tom Izzo said. "We're still at a point where we're still first place in the league. We still have a team that has been resilient."
Resiliency has been an admirable trait that this team possesses. After a loss to Northwestern, MSU bounced back and won two big road games in convincing fashion at Ohio State and in Iowa City against the Hawkeyes. The resolve of this team deserves even more credit when you look at the misfortune that they have had.
"We have to move on. No matter which way we're going right now, we're still number one in the Big Ten," freshman Delvon Roe said. "We still control our own destiny, so you're going to have some bumps in the road. The great teams are determined by how they handle those adversities."
The bad news started for this team over a year ago when Roe injured his knee while playing in high school. Senior center Goran Suton injured his knee in November, and that required surgery. In the process, the Spartans were embarrassed by Maryland and North Carolina.
After the UNC game, the Spartans went on a tear, but in the midst of that, Roe got hurt again. This time it was his ankle, which he sprained against Oakland in a game at the Palace. It wasn't a significant blow, but it did hinder his play for the next couple of games.
The latest setback is the health of forward Raymar Morgan. A virus kept him out of practice on Monday and Coach Izzo said that there is a 95% chance that he will not play tonight.
Speaking of tonight's game, it's against another quality opponent. The Minnesota Golden Gophers are 18-3 and coming off of a blowout against Illinois. The Spartans beat Tubby Smith's squad earlier this season in Minneapolis, but that has proven to be a bad omen for the Green & White, as they have lost their last two rematch games at the Breslin Center.
The players claimed that they had a good practice on Monday and that focus will be imperative in tonight's game. Roe feels that having complete focus is definitely not impossible, but may be difficult for the team to obtain after a loss like the one they just suffered.
"It's a little harder to refocus, probably, because most teenagers sit back and reflect on what happened," Roe explained. "It takes them a little longer to get over something. Being a young team, that's going to be a big question for us going into Wednesday."
Tickets are available for the Michigan State men's basketball game against Minnesota on Wednesday, Feb. 4 at the Breslin Center at 8:30 p.m. Tickets range in price from $13-$30 and may be purchased through the MSU Athletics Ticket Office by phone at 1-800-GO-STATE or 517-355-1610 or on-line at www.msuspartans.com.