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February 07, 2012

Checking into the boards

Much like in its rebuilding season of 2006-07, Michigan State has recovered from a subpar defending/rebounding year to have a strong one -- but the difference, as we've learned in three months, is that this team also the talent and offensive pieces to have an extended March.

    If you enjoy bracketonomy at this time of year, ESPN's Joe Lunardi has MSU as a No. 2 seed in his latest bracket. If you study Izzohistory and think it has any bearing on the present, you may know he has had four teams seeded higher than a 4 -- in 1999 (No. 1), 2000 (No. 1), 2001 (No. 1) and 2009 (No. 2). All made the Final Four. All had more talent (or at least, nurtured talent) than this team. None had as many first-year contributors as this one has, which is why Izzo thinks much growth remains possible.

    "I do think we're gonna be a better team two weeks from now," he said, citing Nix, Payne, Dawson and Trice among those who can be a big part of that. "And a better team four weeks from now. Right now that’s almost the biggest goal, because if we keep getting better those things (the Big Ten race, seeding) will half take care of themselves."

      Before going any further, I'd like to appease the TPS Police before they come after me (no, I'm not talking TPS Reports, I'm talking tempo-free stats). I enjoy them, believe in them, still reluctant to use them in stories and spend several grafs explaining them. Here's a glance at them. And as I've said to the folks at TOC and elsewhere, when Izzo stops citing dinosaur stats such as rebounding margin and plain old FG percentage, I'll consider doing the same.

    Now, on the Michigan/Trey Burke game plan, credit also should go to walk-on Joe Sweeney, who emulated Burke for the scout team. Hey, if we're going to ask who played Denard Robinson in practice every year, we should ask the same after basketball wins over U-M and its hardwood version of Denard (not big but extremely fast, the catalyst, not a bad comparison).

    "He used the hesitation moves, came off slow, came off fast, played with the ball, rocked Nix a couple times, rocked Alex a couple times," Draymond Green said of Sweeney. "He did a great job.”

    Here's a cool look at MSU's defense on Burke.

    Speaking of Green, he's one of 20 finalists for the Oscar Robertson Trophy, handed out to the best player in college basketball. Yahoo's Pat Forde deems Green one of eight legit contenders. The bad news for Green is that OSU's Jared Sullinger is No. 3 on that list and ahead of Green on most lists for BTPOY as well. The good news for everyone is we get to watch Green, MSU, Sullinger and OSU go at it twice in the next four weeks.

    And yes, rising rap star Wale was at practice Monday. I've watched some of his videos, he's pretty good, but I can't link anything here on our family newspaper website. If Green can get the GZA or Phife Dawg to show up to practice, I'll really be impressed.

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Joe Rexrode
MSU Sports Reporter
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