February 19, 2013

DotComp: Reality Check or Maturity Check?

EAST LANSING - Is it possible to play down to the level of the competition when the competition is the No. 1-ranked team in the country?

That's probably not possible, theoretically. But that's exactly how Michigan State felt after this loss to Indiana.

Indiana likely has three NBA first-round draft picks in its starting lineup. The Hoosiers were the consensus preseason No. 1 team in the country, and are currently enjoying their third tour of duty of the season with that ranking.

Yet, Spartan players solemnly exited the Breslin Center on Tuesday night feeling as though they let a victory slip away against a good Indiana team, but a team that is not as good as they are.

The problem now is that the Spartans are running out of chances to prove they are the best team in the Big Ten - trailing the Hoosiers by one game, with four conference games remaining - including road hassles at Ohio State and Michigan, and a root canal scheduled for the visiting Wisconsin Badgers on March 7.

That gauntlet would seem so much more manageable and inviting if the Spartans had simply entered this cage match against the Hoosiers with the ferocity and focus of the top-ranked visitors - and thereby finishing off a victory that most expected from them.

Some how, some way, from the head coach down to the captains and the rest of the players, the Spartans felt that they didn't match Indiana's intensity, and blew a chance to take a big step toward fourth Big Ten title in five years.

Izzo and the rest made sure to credit Indiana at every turn for deserving the victory, while also blaming themselves for failing to bring enough fight and commitment to the game.

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