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February 01, 2010

Happy Mondays

Underrated band from about 20 years ago. On this Monday, here's your weekly glance at the polls (with four Big Ten teams in the top 16 and no others on the radar) and Joe Lunardi's latest bracket. Notice what I think would be a favorable draw for MSU, and the fact that North Carolina is outside the bubble.

    The more the season goes on, the more Kansas and Kentucky look like the teams with the most horsepower. Getting a No. 1 seed is the only way to guarantee not having to beat one of them to get to Indy. If MSU keeps winning, it should have a chance to pass one of those Big East teams.
    From Wisconsin, here's an update on Jon Leuer. Progress, but again, end of regular season is the target. Bo Ryan said as much earlier today on the Big Ten teleconference. At his presser, Tom Izzo said MSU is not preparing for Leuer to play, although he also said Wisconsin has "kept that thing quieter than the CIA would keep something."
    Izzo today also:
    * Called the next three games "maybe the toughest three-game stretch" of his tenure at MSU. That's a bold statement. I'll go with Louisville-UConn-UNC from a year ago (yes, Izzo was talking regular season. Still, bold statement).
    * Addressed the drought at Kohl Center, where MSU last won in 2001. As he pointed out, MSU did not play there in 2002 and 2009, so it's a six-game losing streak. He said ending the streak is not a primary motivator, especially because Wisconsin has been a top program in that time and top programs are supposed to beat each other at home.
    To review the streak, 2003 was a convincing Wisconsin win and the "dunk game" out of which the Izzo-Bo feud was born; 2004 was convincing as well, after a struggling MSU team started with a big lead; 2005 was a game MSU blew in the last two minutes, heaping all kinds of turmoil onto the Anderson-Hill-Torbert class; 2006 was a straight blowout of the "Big Three" MSU team that was starting to show its many flaws; 2007 took a late bomb 3-pointer from Kammron Taylor to bring the Badgers back on senior day for Taylor and Alando Tucker. A great chance for an MSU win over a team that was No. 1 in the nation a couple weeks earlier (before losing at MSU); and 2008 was convincing, 42 points for the Spartans.
    * Said he actually came up with the idea of a light practice Sunday and said "mental fatigue" is something he's watching for with this team. He is concerned about how this team will react if it does lose, considering it hasn't dropped a game since late December at Texas.
    * Identified turnovers as a major key, no surprise. MSU is averaging 13.7 turnovers in its wins and 18.7 in its losses. And Wisconsin doesn't turn it over, so precision will be essential Tuesday.

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Joe Rexrode
MSU Sports Reporter
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