It’s my usual practice to provide some instant analysis on major Michigan State athletic contests. But frankly, today’s 72-70 loss at home to Ohio State — which costs the Spartans an outright Big 10 championship and instead ended their regular season with a three-way tie for first by the margin of one basket — was a bit too brutal for me to want to relive so soon.
The day got worse for Spartan fans with the news breaking tonight that the injury that forward Branden Dawson, a rising freshman star, endured about 10 minutes into the game, is a torn knee ACL that will keep him out of post-season play. I’m sure all of Spartan Nation sends him our best wishes for a full and speedy recovery.
I’ll get back to it over the next couple of days in the run-up to the Big 10 tournament, which goes from Thursday through Sunday. Despite today’s defeat, MSU still has the number 1 seed in the tournament and a first-round bye, meaning their first game will be in Friday’s quarterfinals against the winner of Thursday’s game between 8th-seeded Iowa and 9th-seeded Illinois.
To our Spartans, congratulations and thanks for a season (with a 24-7 overall record so far and a final 13-5 regular season mark in the Big 10) that has far exceeded pre-season expectations. We’ll be raising the roof rooting for you in the Big 10 tournament and in the NCAAs beyond.
To Ohio State, congratulations on a gut-check win with a share of the title on the line. Michigan State jumped out to a 15-point lead in the first half, but the Buckeyes took our best punch, whittled away, and hit the game-winning shot that the Spartans could not come up with themselves. Ohio State was the prohibitive pre-season favorite to win the Big 10 title and was ranked #1 in the country for a brief while before hitting a few bumps (including a 10-point loss to Michigan State in Columbus a few weeks ago). So while I’d rather have seen MSU win the regular season crown outright, it doesn’t hurt my feelings to see us in a tie with Ohio State.
The third team in the three-way tie is Michigan, and the spirit of sportsmanship requires me to salute them too. It has been a long uphill climb for the Michigan program to recover from one of the worst pay-for-play scandals in college sports history, which required them to expunge the “Fab Five” team’s visit to the national championship final in 1992, its National Invitational Tournament championship in 1997 and its Big 10 tournament championship in 1998, and to forfeit all its wins for five entire seasons, 1992-93 and from 1995 to 1999. So props to the Wolverines for winning a share of the school’s first Big Ten regular season title in 26 years.
As for Michigan fans who somehow persuaded themselves that it was okay to root today for Ohio State so their team could back into that shared title — wow. How do you live with yourself after rooting for a school you claim to hate worse than the devil himself… even worse than Michigan State? Don’t you feel… tainted?
Oh, well, whatever. Here’s the punch line. In order to get to the final round of the Big 10 tournament, Michigan would almost certainly have to play Ohio State — yep, same Ohio State — in the semifinals. And Michigan State fans can’t wait to return the favor. See, we have no reason to love Ohio State, but the words “Go Buckeyes” don’t taste like poison in our mouths.
Especially when they are playing Michigan.