...and yeah, that’s how I saved Christmas! Oh, Readers... excuse me. Didn’t see ya there. My name is Mike, and going forward I’ll be recapping the performances of Michigan State players based on whatever measurement I see fit. By reading this article, you are essentially choosing to agree with me fully and never once offer an opinion that differs from mine. You are encouraged to offer those opinions in the comments sections, but know that I will defend the author of the column to the death. It is worth noting, however, that the author has no shortage of semi-knowledgeable nonsense when it comes to Michigan State sports.
Eron Harris: It’s hard to imagine Harris didn’t hear the criticism thrown his way after his subpar performances in the recent weeks. Izzo chose to start Harris over McQuaid today and the decision paid off for both players. Eron was the best player on offense the entire night tonight, shooting a hilarious 5 – 8 from three and a jaw dropping 5 - 5 from the free throw line. He fell asleep on one back door that led to a Rutgers layup, but his four assists made up for it. Similarly, Star Fox can attack opponents in a variety of ways. He is useful from distance, effective up close due to his advantage in regards to his quickness, and has a variety of other options to give you an advantage over your opponent. Basically, Eron Harris is your Star Fox.
Nick Ward: Donkey Kong is the obvious pick usually for Nick, but tonight was an interesting game from Mr. Ward. He finished with a respectable stat line (15 – 6 – 2), but a lot of those came in garbage time. That being said, I have to imagine Izzo was EXTREMELY happy with the effort Nick put forth tonight. By my count, his teammates passed to him a measly 5 times in the first half in positions that it was reasonably expected for him to score. He made a poor decision taking a jump shot from the free throw line, and a few forced jumpers he had to throw up as the shot clock was winding down, but that’s not what I want to talk about. On multiple occasions Nick created his own shots off offensive rebounds (he had an and-one in the first ten minutes in what I believe was his first real touch), finished a respectable 5 – 8 from the free throw line, and played the pick and roll defense that will remind you of Matt Costello. Rutgers is not a good 3 point shooting team, but Ward was still hedging screens and forcing ball handlers off their spots while recovering in time to protect the paint. Take this second half sequence for example:
· Ward hedges a ball screen on the perimeter; he helps low on a guard and recovers high on a center to steal the entry pass, which he outlets for a transition layup attempt. The transition layup is missed, but Ward is trailing for an offensive rebound that he puts up and in. On the ensuing possession, a Rutgers defender tries to take Nick baseline and Nick blocks him at the rim. Had Mr. Payne done that his freshman year, Izzo would have retired his jersey at halftime.
A player who made his money tonight by hustling, pestering opponents on both ends, working hard on defense, and not necessarily adding much on offense? Nick Ward sounds like Kirby.
Miles Bridges: I don’t want to get into conspiracy theories here, but my conspiracy theory is that Izzo held Bridges out until the Rutgers game so that more than 18 people would show up to watch. Smart move, Tom. Bridges looked every bit his old self in terms of athleticism, throwing down two dunks that I couldn’t have done on a 7 foot hoop, and had a brute force running right handed layup that I couldn’t have done on any foot hoop even if the basket was the size of the hole Michael Jordan got sucked into in Space Jam. He had a few passes slip through his hands and looked a little rusty, but overall a sight for sore eyes for a Michigan State fanbase who is currently in first place in the Big Ten and, naturally, suffering. A character with the ability to deliver knockout blows while occasionally doing things that you wouldn’t expect and might not be able to control, Miles Bridges is crazy old Link.
Tum Tum: Man, I’m on the Tum Tum bandwagon and I’m going to be there until he leaves. Does he deserve to start over Winston? Probably not, but he doesn’t deserve a lot of criticism he gets. That being said, tonight’s game was a poor effort from him. He had two points on a fast break, but got fouled at the rim on a first half drive that led to two missed free throws we won’t be able to afford come March. Also, he committed a few turnovers that led to Rutgers run outs and had a miscommunication on an outlet pass turnover credited to Alvin but will always be the fault of the point guard. He did, however, do a great job as always of pushing the pace and making Rutgers commit to sending fewer men to the glass in order to get back. Tum is Pikachu, an unbelievably quick character whose own speed can be known to do more damage than good.
Tom Izzo: Not only was his theory to not play Miles Bridges until the Rutgers game in order to draw fans a great idea, he utilized Bridges in a great way and was able to shuffle his lineup to produce the best performance from two keys players. His decision to start Harris and have McQuaid come off the bench proved wise, as Harris answered the bell after weeks of hearing that he wouldn’t, and McQuaid was able to shoot enough to get some confidence back. Similarly, that play he called for Bridges after he entered the game? Vintage. Also, Bridges throwing down a fast break one handed dunk and getting yelled at for not getting back on defense? Double Vintage. Izzo has an immeasurable amount of tricks up his sleeve, and even though you sometimes know what’s coming… good luck stopping it. Izzo is the final Super Smash boss, the Master Hand.
Alvin Ellis: Alvin Ellis is the Yoshi Team, 18 annoying Yoshi’s that come at you in groups of three and are generally harmless, but if you fall behind or haven’t scouted properly… you’re in trouble. Ellis may never be the player we all hoped for coming in his freshman year, but he bailed us out of that Minnesota game and although I’m not willing to say he will bail us out of a Sweet 16 game… let’s not rule anything out. Ellis is fearless, he can score off the dribble and his catch and shoot percentage feels great although I don’t have the numbers handy without re-watching the last few games. Not being ready for the Yoshi team could cost you a life or two.
Kenny Goins: Well I guess we should welcome you back as well, Kenny! An impressive statline from Kenny, which totaled 9 points on perfect shooting, 6 rebounds, and an assist in 15 minutes. Foul trouble and matchup disadvantages may have cut his playing time, but he played admirably and started to show glimpses of himself before his injury last year. Good to see you again, Kenny. You’re an impressive player who, when channeled correctly, can be an extremely dangerous and reckless foe. You are Ness! Sure, sometimes you accidentally throw yourself off the edge or have your B + UP move smash you into the side of a building, but occasionally you can do merciless damage to your opponents across the board and can’t be stopped.
Kyle Ahrens: I will defend to my death that Kyle’s corner three and only three points came off a wonderfully executed slip screen designed for Demar Derozan and Kyle Lowry (I do not have the replay in front of me, so if I’m wrong I apologize) but executed by Tum Tum Nairn. A player who doesn’t generally make a huge impact until he unleashes a beautiful play like that? I mean this as a compliment Kyle, you are Jigglypuff.
Victory for MSU,