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February 21, 2012

Sorry, one-game-at-a-time crowd, this is inevitable (and fun)

I have a feeling we may be doing a lot of team comparing in the next few weeks. We already got at Tom Izzo for some of that Monday. Draymond Green knows two things right now – this team would beat his freshman team of 2008-09 that got all the way to the NCAA title game in Detroit. And if senior Green tangled with freshman Green?
    “I’d kill that ’09 guy,” he said.

    So what would happen if the teams played?
    “We win. Yeah. We win.”
    Have you thought about the matchups?
    “What is there to think about?”
    Why is this team better?
     “We have a better coach.”
    (Insert laughter from reporters here).
    “I just feel this team would pull it out,” said Green, who by the way was just named USBWA national player of the week. “I’m not saying we’re necessarily better. But we’d pull it out. The teams are kind of similar if you actually break it down and look at it.”
    Is defense the difference?
    “Our defense is better. Team defense. We definitely had Travis (Walton), who was that lockdown defender. But I think overall our defense is better.”
    Green was asked about the Mateen Cleaves teams. No one’s ready to go there. He certainly isn’t.
    “I can’t discuss that with him,” he said of Cleaves. “He has a national championship, what am I gonna say? I can maybe discuss that at the end of the year. Can’t discuss it now. All he’d do is put his ring in my face.”
    As for Izzo, what I gathered from his comments Monday is that he might be as confident in this team as any since those Cleaves teams – yet he still thinks it has a “smaller margin of error.”
    And yet ... consistent defense should increase the cushion, no?
    “I’ve had some teams I think were more talented but definitely not as good defensively,” Izzo said. “So that right away scares you, because you run into somebody … When I say we have very little margin for error, we don’t as far as having an off day, that doesn’t just mean an off shooting day. Because if we have an off shooting day, we’re good enough defensively to maybe make up for that. I’m talking an off day focused on everything. So I haven’t had many (I’ve been this confident in), I don’t think. I think definitely our 2010 Final Four team wasn’t that way. 2009 was close because we had pretty good leadership and Raymar and Trav were good and we had depth. That was close.”
    Izzo amended his comment on this team’s talent not in the “upper echelon,” saying: “When I say talent, I mean experienced talent.”
    “Maybe I’m the guy on dial-a-clue,” Izzo said. “Maybe I don’t really … it’s not that I don’t appreciate them because I do appreciate them. But I just mean if I looked at Ager, Brown and Neitzel and Torbert and Hill and Davis, that seems like a more talented team to me. That bizarre word talent. But this one’s got some young talent, too.”
    Izzo didn’t mention the MVP of that team, by the way – Alan Anderson. I have debated with Shawn Windsor the talent of this team vs. the talent of the 2004-05 team. I think 04-05 had a bit more of it – certainly on the wing and I think narrowly overall. But this team is definitely better defensively and on the boards. That goes a long way.
    And yeah, it’s very talented. It’s just that the wing position is young and has not had a consistent producer this season. It’s had a lot of mixing and matching, and that has gotten it done. But that’s where people expect great teams to have some of their best talent. This team has a more dynamic athlete at point guard than the 04-05 team had, it has more versatility inside – and Izzo’s never had a player who does all the different things Green does for him.
    This team’s also a lot more consistent, more reliable than the 08-09 team. It has not yet demonstrated that it can play at the level that team played in its incredible stretch of wins over USC, Kansas, Louisville and UConn – though segments of the past three games (often involving Dawson) hint at the possibility.
    “A lot of people like to just say ‘That team don’t have no talent.’ Our team has a lot of talent,” Green said. “You can’t do anything with not having any talent. I don’t care how good of a leader you have or how good of a coach you have. You’ve got to have some type of talent to do something. So I think it’s way underrated, our talent level. I think it’s just, we have less-experienced talent.
    "Last year, the year before, we had Kalin, had Durrell, had Raymar. Guys who had proven themselves and everybody knew they had talent. I think this year, we just have a bunch of guys who have talent, but it hasn’t been proven. So nobody really knows how much talent we really have, and now people are starting to see.”
    Yes, yes they are.

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Joe Rexrode
MSU Sports Reporter
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