This round of the FSAB pits two hoopers against one another. Let's see how Ms. Keane and Mr. Walton stack up.
Like Floor Rijpma, Keane was one of the best Spartans in her sport during the past decade. She was one of five Spartan women to be named to the All-Big Ten team in all four of her seasons (along with Brittney Thomas, Liz Shimek, Lindsay Bowen, and an athlete that will make an appearance later in the bracket). She went out with one heck of a bang her senior year, leading the team with 16.1 points per game (sixth in the Big Ten), and 2.4 steals per game (first in the B1G). Even though the point average was only sixth in the conference, her 531 points in 2010-2011 were fourth best in a season in Spartan history.
On top of the numbers, she was also the first Big Ten player of the year in Spartan history, and the sixth All-American. She is currently training with the Canadian National Team in hopes of being selected for the FIBA Americas Championship in September.
For many Spartan fans, no one will top Mateen Cleaves as the quintessential Spartan leader. To me Travis Walton came as close as one possibly could to Mateen's legacy. Take the 2009 2nd round NCAA game against USC. Tim Floyd instituted a triangle and 2 defense (KJ thought it was a box and one though), having his players sag off Walton, daring him to shoot. Travis proceeded to go 8 for 13, including two critical makes late in the game in the toughest win MSU had in the 2009 NCAA tournament. The media took notice.
As many of us know though, Travis made lock-down defense coupled with intense leadership his brand, and he rode that well-earned reputation to a Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. That intensity is the most distinct memory I have of him, especially seeing it live.
It was the end of the 2006-2007 home slate, and Michigan State had outscored Indiana by 18 in the second half to come away with a 66-58 victory. Despite being an alumni at that point I had scored Izzone tickets, and our group made it down to a corner in the first row. After the game the players started to make their ways around the Izzone to shake hands. I guess I was first in line, and Travis started to lead the players around when we made eye contact. And I tell you readers, to this day I have never seen a look that was as intense and focused as the one Walton had on his face. That may sound fawning, but I believe there's a reason Travis Walton's one of the best loved Spartans to this day -- he brought intensity and emotion to the court the way I thought I would if I was good enough to play for MSU.
So what say ye?