The phrase is “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish” and thank God it is because the start of this was SUPER ugly. Good thing it didn’t stay that way. Anyways, I have to get to celebrating this win so let’s get into Tom Izzo’s 14th tournament win as an underdog.
1. Well, that was a bad start
We have to talk about the first half. ALL of the first half. Nick Ward fouls on the opening tip and is promptly taken out of the game. Matt McQuaid picks up a quick foul, as does Kenny Goins and Alvin Ellis. 7 turnovers with less than 10 minutes gone and at one point Michigan State was down 12 points. It was quite literally the worst start we could have imagined.
Then Bridges gets a bucket. McQuaid hits a trey. Miami gets a lid put on their basket and Michigan State ends up getting on a roll. They shored up the turnovers (7 in the first 8:43, 3 in the final 31:17). Langford buried some jumpers and the Spartans even scored without Bridges OR Ward on the floor. Miami slowed down the first 8 minutes of the game and took advantage of turnovers which we all realized is how you beat Michigan State but the boys in Green went off and ended the half up by 11. Turns out, taking care of the ball helps you win games.
2. Matt McQuaid Is GRIT Defined
Yes, Matt McQuaid is getting love as the second thing. he hit an early three to get things moving. He took a solid charge to swing the momentum. He made a Winston-esque pass to Ward half way through the second half. McQuaid played good all around basketball.
We know what Big Puddin’ brings, we know what Bridges can do and we know the vision that Winston is using on a day to day basis but there were LONG stretches of time that Matt was playing like he felt like he was best player on the court. No look passes and the green light is what we have missed from McQuaid all year and it is damn good to see it now.
3. Time To Play Perfect
Good news: Izzo is 7-1 when he makes it to the round of 32.
Bad news: The only loss was as a 9 seed to a 1 seed, UNC in 2007.
We got through round one. That is great, have a beer and celebrate. Now the road to the Sweet 16 goes through Bill Self, Josh Jackson, and National Player of the Year hopeful: Frank Mason. Kansas did not mess around while beating UC Davis 100-62 in the first round. While this is not an unbeatable Kansas team (they lost 4 times this year), this is a team that is clicking and has some fire power. McQuaid is going to play a big role, Bridges is going to need to go off and Nick Ward is going to have to do what he does: Shoot some ridiculous FG% and get the opponent to foul him.
Sunday night is approaching, get ready to see the Josh Jackson vs Miles Bridges matchup.