Green's on 1,000 right now
You kind of get the feeling Michigan State wouldn't mind if the season got extended for a few weeks. The Spartans are banged up, tired, about to play their fifth game in 13 days, one win from a championship, positioning themselves for a postseason run -- yet not necessarily begging for the season's final stages.
It is kind of hard to believe that it's almost over. This team enjoys playing together and it shows. The fans enjoy watching it, and that shows. Breslin (with full Izzone for the last time, by the way) was in top form tonight for a game against Nebraska. This team's ... near greatness? Would that be accurate at this point? ... kind of snuck up on everyone. So now it's like everyone wants more, and there isn't much left.
As for Green, he's in position to load up on a slew of team and individual awards in the next few weeks, and he got a big one tonight with his 1,000th rebound. He joins Greg Kelser (1,092), Johnny Green (1,036) and Antonio Smith (1,016) in that club. Kelser was there tonight to call the game and congratulate him. Earlier in the season, Green told Kelser he's coming after his record. Kelser said "it's about time it's broken" and told Green he'd be there to present him a ball if he does it. That may have to take place in New Orleans if it happens.
“It’s incredible," Austin Thornton said of Green's rebounding numbers. "They say he’s 6-7 but he’s maybe a half inch taller than me – 6-5, 6-6.”
Green's 20 and 10 headlined the night, but the MSU defense at least deserves a subhed (newspaper lingo for you). Nebraska's 34 tonight was the lowest MSU has allowed since it beat Brown 45-34 to open the 2006-07 season. That stat made me shudder as I recalled covering that game. The last time MSU did something like this in Big Ten play was a 59-29 win over Northwestern in the 1999-2000 national title season. Another shudder. And that leads to cold sweats as I think about the four MSU-Wisconsin games that season. The horror.
Tom Izzo said tonight he still can't totally figure out why this defense is so great. Green said it's because Appling is so good and everyone else feeds off that. Whatever the reason, it has MSU in position to clinch a share at Indiana (unless Ohio State stumbles at home against Wisconsin, in which case MSU will have a share and will be playing for the outright title). If Izzo gets his seventh, he'll be the fifth coach in Big Ten history to win at least seven.
Michigan's loss tonight helps MSU, but there are no certainties as the final week of the regular season approaches. The Spartans will have to play their best basketball to win either of their final two games. It's a difficult finish, a finish that seems to have come out of nowhere -- just like this team, which looks like it can handle just about any situation right now.
"We're on a mission," Thornton said.