Tom Izzo could only look on in bewilderment as his Michigan State team struggled to initiate their offense, stop penetration, or rebound the basketball against Iowa on Tuesday night.
Predictably, the Spartans, who are ranked as the No. 1 team in the country, were easily defeated by the Hawkeyes, 83-70. It was a pretty embarrassing loss for Michigan State, as it was the biggest loss from a No. 1 team since, err, the Spartans in 2013 when they lost to North Carolina by 14.
I am here to reassure Michigan State and their fans, EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE OKAY.
Seriously though, the overreactions on social media sites (mostly Twitter) was astounding, and those overreactions did not come from the fans of Michigan State. Mostly everyone and their next door neighbor had a kneejerk reaction to a game that Iowa was actually favored in. The Spartans were on the ropes just a week earlier against Oakland; it should have been well known that a game at Iowa was not going to be easy.
There are five main reasons to not hit the panic button on Michigan State:
Iowa Is Pretty Good
Let’s give the Iowa Hawkeyes some credit here, they believed they could beat Michigan State right from the get-go, and never let up throughout the game. It was well known that the Hawkeyes were a real threat before the game began, and we know this because they were a 2.5 point favorite to beat Michigan State. The Hawkeyes were sitting at a modest 9-3 record before Tuesday’s game, but every loss was a quality one. In fact, all three losses were by a combined 12 points. The first came to Dayton, a team that will contend in the A-10, and then to Notre Dame, who has lost their three games by a combined 10 points. The loss that everyone knows about is the debacle that was the Iowa State game. The Hawkeyes were up 13 points with 10 minutes left, and eight with 1:43 left in the game, but managed to lose it on a last second floater from Monte Morris.
This team could easily be 11-2, or 12-1 right now with two wins over top ten teams. Let’s not pretend like they are some mid-major that deserves no respect.
They also played well in the game itself, shooting 48 percent from the field and 23 free throws. They played stellar defense as well, which would cause Michigan State to go into a funk the whole game shooting the ball.
Michigan State Could Not Shoot
Ultimately, basketball is a game that is determined on if the ball goes in the basket or not. How well a team shoots the ball can often make or break a game. That is not to say it did Tuesday, but fans need to realize that a bad shooting performance can happen, even to the best of teams.
Although he was dealing with foul trouble, one of the most prolific shooters in the country, Bryn Forbes, was 1-5 in field goals today, while also going 0-3 from the three point line. This is a week after the best college game of his career when he scored 32 points against Oakland.
Both Alvin Ellis III and Javon Bess were 1-6 in field goals as well. As a team, Michigan State got 42 percent from the field and 3-13 (23%) from the three point line — OUCH.
As already discussed, Iowa was great shooting the ball. The 48 percent from the field was coupled with going 6-13 from three, and the extra made shots were a big reason for a Hawkeye win.
The Spartans’ Overall Effort Left Much To Be Desired
It is tough to explain why this is a reason to NOT worry about Michigan State.
Basically, Tom Izzo was not pleased about the effort his team showed in Tuesday’s game.
“It was one of the rare times in my career I thought we got, for (lack) of a better choice of words, punked. We got outhustled.” (ESPN)
Michigan State also announced that Izzo’s father, Carl, passed away on Monday. Izzo had powerful words for his team before the game, but he was unhappy with his team’s on-court response.
“My dad was kind of a two-job, blue-collar immigrant that worked his posterior off most of his life, and that’s what I asked of my team: ‘Don’t honor him with a win. Honor him by how we play,'” Izzo said. “That’s been the most disappointing of all the things that’ve happened in the last two days.” (ESPN)
It is hard to see any positive in this, but if anything, we know that this team is going to work extremely hard for the rest of the year. Izzo is not going to let this type of thing slide, and neither will Denzel Valentine. Expect a team that is going to be ultra-competitive over the next few weeks. Their letdown performance on Tuesday could end up being one of the positives of the season, if they use it as motivation.
Going Undefeated Was Unrealistic
Last year’s Kentucky team, the one that was undefeated until they lost a great game to Wisconsin in the Final Four, kind of raised expectations for the No. 1 team in the country this year. That is all good and dandy, but it is hard to see any team going undefeated this year. The only ones left are Oklahoma, Xavier, SMU, and South Carolina. Oklahoma, Xavier, and South Carolina all play in big time conferences, and SMU cannot go to any postseason this year anyway, so there would always be an asterisk next their undefeated season (if that were to happen).
Michigan State was going to lose at some point during the regular season. That is what history tells us, and it is what common sense can tell us.
And in all honesty, losing at Iowa is probably one of the “better losses” that Michigan State could have found itself with this season. Like previously stated, that is a good basketball team. One loss is not the end of the world.
Denzel Valentine Could Not Suit Up
The most obvious reason is also one of the most least important, according to Coach Izzo anyway.
When asked out much Valentine’s absence hurt Michigan State, Izzo said, “Zero. That had something to do with not making baskets. But it had nothing to do with the effort you give.” (ESPN)
Izzo was obvious still upset about the effort of the Spartans, but we’ll respect Izzo’s wishes and save Valentine for last.
There is no doubt that Valentine’s inability to play hurts the Spartans, as they almost lost to Oakland in his first game out. Valentine is averaging 18.5 points, 7.1 assists, and 8.3 rebounds per game, as he is one of the most well-rounded players in the college game. He is also a competent defender, and it shows, as the Spartans have given up over 80 points in both games Valentine has been out. He has been a vocal leader from the bench, but there is no question that the Spartans will want Valentine to get out there as soon as he is ready. He is a valuable piece to the team, and with him, Michigan State probably keeps that Iowa game much closer.