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Despite ouster, Spartans’ future bright

March 25, 2012
CRAIG?REMSBURG - Senior Sports Writer ( , The Mining Journal

As soon as I saw it, I knew it would be the "kiss of death."

Prior to Michigan State University's regional men's basketball semifinal game against Louisville Thursday night, a trio of ESPN college hoops analysts previewed the contest.

All three, after much discussion, said MSU was too talented, too deep for the Cardinals. The "experts" predicted the Spartans would move on from the Sweet 16 to the Elite Eight.

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While pleased the trio thought so highly of coach Tom Izzo's team, I couldn't help but have some concern.

I knew Louisville was slightly off the radar and had a good team with a No. 4 seed. Were the Cardinals really not going to measure up to the Spartans, especially with Rick Pitino at the Louisville helm?

Well, we know what happened. The quicker Cardinals dominated the Spartans from the start and won 57-44.

MSU had more game turnovers (16) than baskets (15) against a pressing Louisville defense.

After the game, I told my two sons - both disgusted with MSU's performance - there were two main reasons why the Spartans lost:

Luke Appling and Gorgui Dieng.

MSU sophomore point guard Appling had a terrible game. He made 1 of 8 shots and scored but six points. But more importantly, he had trouble adjusting to Louisville's pressing defense.

Time and again, he either had trouble getting the Spartans into their offensive set or was forced to turn the ball over with ill-advised passes or dribbling.

Dieng, meanwhile, disrupted the Spartans' normally strong inside game with seven blocks. The towering center just wouldn't let MSU do much in the paint.

In fact, MSU centers Adreian Payne (6-10) and Derrick Nix (6-9) scored just four points each inside.

Senior forward Draymond Green, the Big Ten Player of the Year, turned in his usual stellar game, notching 13 points and grabbing 16 rebounds.

It wasn't nearly enough, however, to save the Spartans.

While the loss will stay with MSU fans for some time, they shouldn't despair. The cupboard will be far from bare next season.

Returning in 2012-13 will be Appling, Payne, Nix and Branden Dawson - a talented freshman guard who suffered a knee injury toward the end of the season - among others.

A highly-touted recruiting class, including top in-state players Matt Costello of Bay City and Denzel Valentine of Lansing, as well as perhaps the best player in Indiana in Gary Harris, should be able to contribute.

With this kind of team talent on board next season, Izzo appears to be able to reload rather than rebuild.

Replacing Green's talent and unsurpassed leadership will be crucial, of course. A player with his overall skills doesn't come along very often.

But Izzo will find the best player to lead his team. There's no doubt about that.

Hopefully, this season's returnees will learn from their regional loss to Louisville and come back strong in 2012-13.

All they have to do is convince the ESPN analysts to either ignore them or side with the Spartans' opponent(s) come tournament time.

That might give them a little extra boost.

Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251. His email address is



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