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UConn’s backcourt-driven national title weekend emphasizes MSU’s harsh truth – Spartans once had best team in country

It turned out Connecticut’s guards were better than any other team in this NCAA tournament — Kentucky, Florida and Michigan State included.

MSU once had a similar backcourt, with Kentucky- and Florida-type pieces around it.

If I were Tom Izzo or Keith Appling, or any member of MSU’s program from November through early January, I’m not sure watching UConn’s Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright dribble around and shoot over the talented and youthful Wildcats Monday night would make me feel any better.

Yes, the team that beat the Spartans in the regional finals won it all, showing its dizzying spurts, backcourt-based defensive pressure and wiry interior defenders could hold up against anyone in college basketball.

Except maybe MSU, as it once was.

When the Spartans beat Kentucky, 78-74, on Nov. 12 in Chicago, they had a Napier-Boatright backcourt. That’s was Appling and Gary Harris were, in tandem — both that night, when they combined for 42 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists and seven steals against the Wildcats’ Harrison twins, and later, other than when Harris battled an ankle sprain in December and until Appling’s wrist injury took hold of his season.

Aaron and Andrew Harrison weren’t then yet what they became in March. But Appling and Harris ran circles around them. Appling especially, with 22 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and four steals.

Remember that Appling.

Contrast him with the player who finished in New York against Napier. No comparison. Imagine that matchup — Appling then and Napier now. They might have been the best two point guards in the country.

Imagine Appling and Harris with Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson as they were playing at season’s end, and with Denzel Valentine and Travis Trice …

There wasn’t a better team playing this weekend in Texas.

It’s a harsh truth. Injuries happen. But MSU had a championship team. Just didn’t win a championship.

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48 Responses to UConn’s backcourt-driven national title weekend emphasizes MSU’s harsh truth – Spartans once had best team in country

  1. avatar Spartan 81 says:

    I agree we win the NC with a healthy Keith Appling, However I feel better that it was injury and not chemistry like 2011. As it was with KA hurt we were the equal of Kentucky and Florida and arguably the second best team in the nation playing four on five

    All in all a good year Go Green

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  3. avatar Mountain Sparty says:

    I hope Keith can overcome the emotionally draining last month. The kid had heart and was willing to give it all for his team and his coaches. Move on Keith. Here’s hoping you can find your confidence and a place to continue to play basketball. You will be remembered as a Spartan Warrior.

  4. avatar Chris says:

    Love your honest reporting, Ghaham, but is another story on this necessary? We know we didn’t live up to expectations. Please stop pouring salt in this wound…

    • avatar jerseyjohn says:

      i agree. i’ve heard enough. we probably would have gotten out of our bracket if we didn’t have to play UCONN at the garden. i now hate villanova for losing to them. nova was the worst 2 seed i’ve ever seen. as for appling, i won’t miss seeing him spend half the game falling on the floor.

    • avatar Graham Couch says:

      Probably not, Chris. But in the internet age of media, there are about four more months of offseason filler posts and stories to feed the beast. After spring football, and other than a couple drafts and decisions, most of what anyone writes about MSU or college football / basketball teams anywhere between now and August isn’t necessary.

      • avatar Spartan 81 says:

        Thats very true starting April 26 but you still have 18 days to cover Spring Football.

        • avatar Cmoney says:

          Actually I think couch nailed it and I don’t think this, after uconn’s win had been discussed specifically… I’d wish I’d hear more from izzo on specifics to why??? I personally don’t think appoints wrist was the real reason for poor play…more to the story. I just don’t think we were prepared properly for that guard play…

          • avatar Spartan 81 says:

            I take Izzo at his word, Appling was hurt and Trice was too inexperienced to handle that level of guard play.

  5. avatar Helderop says:

    The Truth i.s the Truth… the entire season the officiating was tipped against us/MSU… I have no doubt that the officials are/were paid off/given orders from headquarters to “tilt the table” against the SPARTANS… We played above all of the crooked officiating 29 out of 38 times… AND the UCONN game was tilted very well… “They” did the same thing to us against DUKE last year… WAKE UP… “They have to CHEAT US TO BEAT US”… AND “THEY” DO!!!! ….TRUTH!

    • avatar slouchy bud replies to Hoke says:

      that is correct it is always the officials, can I get a Big King??

      • avatar Helderop says:

        yeah… right… Doesn’t Matter what YOU say… you ARE NOT a Spartan… and you are not a fan of MSU… What I said IS the TRUTH… and DESPITE this TRUTH… We won 29 out of 38 games…Try eating ORGANIC… That.s the truth as well…NEXT!

      • avatar MSU Owns Hoke says:

        timeout chris, was that the refs fault ? LOL

    • avatar J says:

      Really? So any time they lose, the officials must have been paid off, there must be a conspiracy? There is no way possible that MSU didn’t play well or the other team just played better? People like you gave a bad look to all MSU fans. Against UConn, MSU there was a foul disparity, but if you watched the game, it was clearly because MSU fell in love with jump shots that game while UConn continued to drive. There may have been a few missed or bad calls, but no more so than in any college basketball game.

      • avatar Tim says:

        UConn won with 21 free throws to our 7, end of story, UConn shoots a miserable 33% to our 39%

      • avatar Helderop says:

        No read what I wrote… the officiating was slanted against us in ALL 38 Games… WE WON 29…. And there IS NO IF AND OR BUTS ABOUT IT… I Watched the Game… AND There was a LOT OF MISSED CALLS…So who are you “J”… your not a SPARTAN Alumnus or FAN… and if you think you are… We would DEFINITELY be better off without “U”…

    • avatar jerseyjohn says:

      i was at the duke game last year and you are right. we cut it to one at halftime and the refs completely took over the second half. we would have lost to louisville anyway but izzo gets no respect compared to the crybaby duke coach.

      • avatar Spartan 81 says:

        I thought the refs were hard on us that Duke game as well

      • avatar Helderop says:

        They got to “Cheat Us To Beat Us”… AND you can “bet” that Coach IZZO coaches the team to “play above” it and do everything we can to take it out of the officials hands… It is just IMPOSSIBLE to do everytime… and we didn’t against UCONN…

    • avatar dmbtierney says:

      You been talking to jerseyjohn?

    • avatar 3M_Rocker says:

      While I don’t believe in any sort of conspiracy, I ABSOLUTELY believe that there exists a general officiating bias against MSU, based on the long accepted notion of our “rough” style of play. Football on the basketball court. I think the officials come into games thinking, the Spartans play rough and should be more closely scrutinized based on this reputation.

  6. avatar Ted says:

    Seriously, your season has been over for almost 2 weeks. MSU didn’t win the title, fair and square. You had all your players back for the last 10 games and didn’t win. How come nobody complained about injuries when they won, only when they lost? I love how the MSU media acts with certainty that MSU would have won if this or if that. MSU season in a nutshell: One Whining Moment, starring Tom Izzo.

    • avatar Helderop says:

      I’d love to know who you really are and you interest’s as well… They’re not SPARTAN

      • avatar slouchy bud replies to Hoke says:

        Basketball talent is basketball talent, no matter if it comes from the suburbs or the city. Take the time to know and understand me before you judge me. Only God can do that. Roses do grow from concrete!

        • avatar Helderop says:

          oh so now you are going to invoke some self-righteous, self-pitying stance in the name of GOD… If you were doing GOD’s Will… Well let’s just say you wouldn’t be commenting on sports stories… If you are A SPARTAN Alumnus or Fan would NEVER call other SPARTANS “Whiners”… and if so you should be embarassed and ashamed… Your only fooling yourself… not me… GO STATE… GO GREEN… GO WHITE… GO M S U !

        • avatar MSU Owns Hoke says:

          and Chris you wasted all that God given talent….

          • avatar reality check says:

            Leave him alone Hoke, why don’t you try making ends meet on 175 mill, not so easy as you think.

          • avatar MSU Owns Hoke says:

            hey mark welcome back, you’re lucky your boss feels sorry for you, and please, CWEBB in bankrupts, hey may have had that much at one time, but not anymore. BK commercials LOL Give him a Big Mac Mark unless you can’t afford it either LOL

  7. avatar J says:

    Healthy, MSU “may” have had what it takes to win the title. However it was no way guaranteed. Even when they were healthy and riding high, UNC came into the Breslin and handled them. A UNC team that was talented, but very inconsistent. All it takes is one bad game or one great game from the other team in the tourney to be sitting at home.

    • avatar dmbtierney says:

      Your comment shows that you know little about MSU basketball, or have a very short memory. Against NC, Costello was running a fever (the beginning of his mono), Appling severly injured his wrist, Harris was cramping badly in the second half and Payne was having foot pains and was not mobile.

      Also, on a related subject, Wisconsin used the same starting in all 38 games they played this season and lasted only one game further in the NCAA Tournament. Now, if the situations were reversed and we had the same lineup and they had all the injuries, who do you think would have gone further in the tournament?

      Anyone who wins any kind of title in any sport has to be good, lucky and healthy. If one or more of these attributes are missing, you don’t win.

  8. avatar Decatur Spartan says:

    I have a feeling that Tom Izzo will finish his career like Ron Mason. Tons of talent. Many league championships and just one N.C.

    • avatar slouchy bud responds to Hoke says:

      And that one will probably get vacated, lucky for Napier and Boatwright that the did not have to play the Wplverines, Stautkas would have lit those guards up for 40

      • avatar Helderop says:

        That’s the same Stauskas that LIT up KENTUCKY… isn’t it?!

      • avatar Helderop says:

        Vacated???! We’re talking Michigan State University Spartans NOT U of M and your Fab Five

        • avatar slouchy bud replies to Hoke says:

          Jalen Rose wants those banners restored and rehung, I think its time they got restored as well

          • avatar helderop says:

            It doesn’t really surprise that you’d consider Jalen Rose’s Desire’s to be far more important than Honesty and Integrity… Just sayin’… A Michigan Man IS a Michigan Man… and as we all know Integrity has nothing to do w/that.

          • avatar MSU Owns Hoke says:

            Hey Chris if any title should get vacated it will be the 89 title scUM won with remedial robinson, and of course Rose wants those banners restored, he’s a drunk junkie, what do you expect? How are those finances of yours coming along ?

  9. avatar Tommy B. says:

    State fans are the biggest whiners I have ever seen. You should be ashamed. There are many other good teams out there that are the equal, or superior. Of MSU.

    • avatar Helderop says:

      who’s your team… and why are you commenting on MSU Spartans… If your not an Alumnus or Fan… well then your comment(s) and opinion(s) are not necessary or welcome here… show yourself… who’s you team… what’s your real interest?!

  10. avatar Spartan 81 says:

    Sad loss to the Spartan Family to Lacey prayers to her family and for AP

  11. avatar dmbtierney says:

    OMG! Hell froze over yesterday and pigs were seen flying in the sky!

    Notre Dame is installing artificial turf for this season. What’s next?
    Video boards? Advertising on the scoreboards? Married housing? Sorority and fraternity houses?

  12. avatar slouchy bud responds to Hoke says:

    So Hoke I guess since you are not the warden at Leavenworth you wasted all that God given talent

    • avatar Spartan 81 says:

      I guarantee that Hoke would not blow 175 million in 10 years

    • avatar MSU Owns Hoke says:

      nope I was asked to promote but I declined, I like seeing people like you getting taken advantage of rather than sitting in a cozy office, and Ted is right. I’m not bankrupt and wouldn’t have blown all that money that you never did earn, you should be in prison for embezzlement with your buddy remedial robinson

  13. avatar Spartan 81 says:

    Gary Harris to the NBA its official Graham should put up a thread by tomorrow

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