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Where I was right and wrong about MSU being better than Indiana, and how Tom Crean confirms it

I knew the emails, tweets and comments were coming after Michigan State’s 72-68 loss Tuesday night to Indiana.

Hearing from a few folks, especially those on the Hoosiers side, was to be expected after writing a column for Tuesday’s Lansing State Journal, making the case that MSU is a better basketball team than Indiana.

And, of course, Tuesday night’s defeat makes the Spartans 0-2 this season against the Hoosiers.

The blind loyalty that exists for one’s team was often evident in these messages, some with anger overwhelming any logic. Others came with more reason.

Physically, I still believe MSU is the better and more capable team, with fewer defensive holes. But what Indiana showed Tuesday is that it’s the more mature team — that’s a worthy talent all its own — and that it has the best player on either roster in Victor Oladipo.

The Spartans panicked Tuesday. As I wrote in Wednesday’s column, they rushed and played unnecessarily frenzied. It was a strange issue for them to have, because this hasn’t been their approach to any other game.

MSU played one of its worst first halves and, overall, not a very good game.

But, pound for pound, the Spartans are the more talented crew — and Tom Crean and Tom Izzo all but said so Tuesday night.

Crean said his team won because it played “with great toughness and intelligence.”

And yet, still, if MSU, playing among its worst games, hits its free throws in the final two minutes, the Spartans beat the Hoosiers and are on top of the Big Ten.

Indiana would have played with no less toughness or intelligence and would have lost to a team playing undisciplined basketball, beneath the level its played over the last three weeks.

Izzo’s frustrating said plenty, too. This wasn’t a team that nearly upset a No. 1-ranked team. His team was one that blew an opportunity it should have taken.

If you disagree with me, that’s fair. But make a point. Simply questioning my sobriety kills your argument before its made.

Because there is a viable argument as to why I was wrong — and it has a ton to do with Oladipo, an NBA-ready guard with the will to carry a team past any deficiencies.

Make that point. Or make another (this was a road win in a difficult environment, for example). But make one. And put any rage down before you do.  It’ll make your case stronger.

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116 Responses to Where I was right and wrong about MSU being better than Indiana, and how Tom Crean confirms it

  1. avatar Matt F. says:

    Blind loyalty? Graham, both yesterday’s article and today’s blog are a testiment to blind loyalty. Disagreeing with you does not constitute rage, by the way. You write with passion, maybe you should expect passion in people’s responses.
    You claimed MSU is the better team. They lost twice to IU. An argument could certainly be made that IU blew a lot of free throw opportunities, the officiating was horrible, and foul trouble plagued the Hoosiers for most of the game. Yet, they won. I think MSU is a very good team. IU proved they are better.

    • avatar Karen Beasley says:

      The difference that MSU has over other teams against IU is they stop Zeller. MSU always have good big guys down low. Michigan does not and that is why IU has a tougher time with MSU.

    • avatar Graham Couch says:

      Matt, I have no loyalty to MSU. Gannett and the LSJ pay my salary, whether the Spartans win or lose.

      • avatar ian says:

        Lansing is your hometown, so don’t act like you are not a MSU fan at heart. A guy born and raised in Bloomington writing for the newspaper down there would be in the same boat as you if they said that IU was better than some team even after they lost to them twice. Show us quotes where Crean and Izzo (hardly an objective person in these kind of arguments) “all but said” the Spartans were the better team. How many college basketball experts (by that, I mean coaches, former coaches, former players, etc.) would say that MSU is the better team? I would say they would be in the very small minority. It’s easy to see you are incorrect just by comparing talent: Ferrell is a frosh and has outplayed Appling (junior) twice; Oladipo is beyond any player on MSU’s roster and maybe anyone else’s roster (Nix should feel really stupid considering his remarks that Dawson is better because he never will be the player Vic is); Zeller is a top 5-10 pick and another Wooden candidate (Payne and Nix are not); Sheehey is one of the top 5 sixth men and would start for almost all other teams; Watford is a 4 year starter that can score in and out and has improved defensively; Hulls is one of the best shooters in the country; and the bench of Abell, Hollowell, Elston, Creek, Perea has found their roles as the season has gone on. I will say that Harris could be just as good as Oladipo is by next year, as long as he becomes a better defender. Valentine is also a nice player, and Trice will perhaps be a Hulls like shooter with more playmaking. Gauna, Byrd, and Costello do not impress as of yet, and most likely will not. I cannot see how MSU is more talented and a better team than IU after looking at the rosters, and the results speak for themselves. Games are one due to many, many factors, and if IU won on sheer poise alone, then that puts another feather in their cap and solidifies them as the better squad.

      • avatar kateri says:

        This statement by Graham is very true. His non-loyalty shines through in many of his articles. That is why he irks many readers that were accustomed to Joe’s style! Boo to you!

  2. avatar Drew Perkins says:

    I agree, Oladipo was a difference maker in so many ways but this was a squandered opportunity by MSU. While it would have been great to win, and we should have, being the best team in Feb means very little. This may douse our BIG title hopes and those are nice but if this team makes a Final Four run this game won’t be much more than a learning opportunity.

  3. avatar Jmr says:

    Well said if there is such a thing, this was a good loss. This has to learn how to be champions. They are not there yet. Let’s see what happens.

  4. avatar Scott says:

    If MSU is the better team then why is MSU 0-2 against Indiana this year ? IU took it to MSU at Assembly Hall with a double digit win. Then last night in the hostile enviroment of the Breslin Center (auditory and physically , Give Cody Z. an ice pack) which should have been worth 10 points to the homers, IU lead the game for about 35 minutes and come back down four in the last 1:34 ( Real time not, MSU timing) and finished the Spartans off. I believe in the real world that makes IU the better team. Talent is only talent, and doesn’t make a complete team. You say MSU’s performance was poor last night well at least give IU some credit for that.

    • avatar AAsparty says:

      they beat us by 5 points @ Bloomington there chief, and he said that MSU was probably the better team physically but not when it comes to maturity and experience, personally, after these two wars they’ve fought, I think these two teams are pretty close….

    • avatar Graham Couch says:

      Well said on the “talent is only talent” bit. I’d say, though, that maturity and poise is a talent. And IU showed more of that for most of the game.

  5. avatar Tim says:

    IU played some of their worst basketball for two halves this season, saying that they are more talented is highly suspect since IU boosts 4 1,000+ scorers and two POY canidates. The refs were horrible on both sides but we all know they always favor the home team, case and point last night. You clearly are not giving credit where credit is due here, sad.

    • avatar AAsparty says:

      true, but we played a horrendous first half, missed a lot of free throws and still managed to bring it down to the wire.

    • avatar Mitch says:

      Match IU’s game versus Purdue at Purdue with MSU’s beatin’ on UM, IU is the better team with the better talent. That being said, there is still much more Big Ten basketball to be played and both teams can still play better than they’ve showed thus far. I think they are both #1 seeds, at least for today.

    • avatar DC Spartan says:

      not always, look at your conference only box scores. Seriously, on the road, IU has been at the ft line more often than the home team in 5/8 games.

      • avatar Mike says:

        That’s because IU draws more fouls than any other team because very few teams have players that can guard Oladipo or Zeller.

  6. avatar Kim says:

    I watch every IU game and can honestly say, the pressure got to IU as well. They weren’t hitting their 3′s and missed more free throws than any other game but managed to pull it out in the end by keeping their cool. Officiating was horrible to say the least. Poor Cody! In addition to the “little assistance” MSU received with the 3 point foul charged to Wil at the end. HOO HOO HOO HOOSIERS!!

    • avatar John says:

      I agree. I think what gets lost in this debate is that IU didn’t play a great all-around game and certainly no where close to what they’ve shown they can do. However, they played about the toughest they have all year, and this signals their maturity and development as a team. IU missed quite a few shots and tip backs and had a sub-par shooting night overall. They played well enough to be in a position to win on the road in spite of a hostile environment, B.S. calls (and no calls), and a ridiculous timekeeper. The toughness really showed when they were down towards the end but clawed back to win.

  7. avatar MAB says:

    I hope MSU gets another crack at IU because both games have been great and I’d like to see Appling get another shot at redemption. Plus these games have been a great showcase for the Big Ten. Its seems like everywhere I go to read about the game, I’ve read a lot of chirping from IU fans. Don’t remember hearing much from them the past few years. I wonder if they’ll still be this loud next year when Zeller and Oladipo are gone.

    • avatar ctstone17 says:

      Be careful what you wish for……

    • avatar kurk81 says:

      Sparty will not only get another shot at IU, but by my reckoning there’ll be TWO more IU-MSU games this year. Final game of the B10 tourney, and in the final 4. As a 40-year IU fan and grad, I would prefer ANYBODY else – State is clearly one of the best 2 teams in the country. But, let’s do 2 more on neutral floors, sit back with several cool beverages, and enjoy some quality basketball. BTW, most Hoosier fans (and I know hundreds) consider MSU our second-favorite team – love the way they play and how Izzo coaches. Good luck til we meet again.

  8. avatar Movementarian says:

    Michigan State is a more “capable” team because your eye test says their defense is better? According to Ken Pomeroy, Indiana has the 14th best AdjD in the country, while Michigan State is 15th. Not saying that slight edge in one stat makes IU a better defensive team, per se, but it’s a great advanced statistic that certainly doesn’t bear out Michigan State being a better defensive team. Oh, and IU has the best AdjO in the country.

    You and Derrick Nix may need to reconsider how you evaluate talent.

    • avatar Graham Couch says:

      Don’t worry about Pomeroy. Look at lateral quickness. Hard to claim a team that starts Hulls is better defensively than one that starts Harris and doesn’t have a similar defensive hole.

      • avatar MO says:

        You claim lateral quickness in response to someone mentioning Derrick Nix….

      • avatar Joe says:

        You question Hulls D, but he seemed to do a pretty good job on Appling. There is a reason Appling has struggled in both games, and it has more to do with Indiana’s D than Appling.

        Talent means nothing if you can’t shoot, and shooting is the best talent of all. They key is to get the ball in the basket, something Hulls seems to excel at, even from 30 feet.

      • avatar Ron says:

        This might be the example of why “team” overrides the individual? Did IU switch to zone anytime last night to protect Jordy’s poor defense? IU has lots of areas to improve but they handled themselves well (except the handling by Mr. Nix) MS is talented and will go deep into the tourney.

      • avatar Movementarian says:

        I’d say Keith Appling’s broken ankles last night would beg to differ with your assertion that MSU has no weak links. Hulls is the weakest link for the Hoosiers’ defense, sure, but they also have two very good defenders coming off the bench in Sheehey and Hollowell.

  9. avatar Murray says:

    The argument for which team is more talented is just that, an argument. But why have it? What a team looks like on paper or in the perception of fans or writers is irrelevant, in my opinion. Indiana is 2-0 against MSU and that’s a fact.

    I’m a Spartan alum and fan through-and-through, but I also realize that wins and losses are what matter, not “potential” or “talent-level.” I’m confident that Izzo will teach our guys to move on from this and use the loss to fuel future wins. Let’s go beat Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Northwestern, eh?

    March Madness is only a few weeks away… can’t wait!

  10. avatar Gambling Gunner says:

    What I said to my wife last evening was that two of the best 5 teams were playing last night — maybe the two best. I thought MSU would win last night — and I root for IU — but regardless of who won, I thought it would be close.

    To me, these teams are very close to evenly matched. I don’t buy that MSU has better talent; but I do believe they are coached extremely well by a man who always has them ready to play in March. I think a couple things are missing a bit from your analysis, Graham:

    1> Tom Crean is an awfully good coach, and coaches in a similar style to Tom Izzo (who is a great coach). Crean consistently has his team ready to play, emphasizes defense and transition. What I don’t think he gets enough credit for is the same thing that Tom Izzo gets a lot of credit for — IU is also improving quickly — they did not play particularly well last night in stretches, but still won in a very, very tough environment.

    2> IU really is playing team basketball — and making fewer mistakes than many teams (I think they had 1 turnover in first 10 minutes in a hostile environment) — although they may be less athletic at a couple positions (Hulls, Watford); they play very, very well together, as evidenced by their balanced scoring. And when you add a great player to that (Oladipo, not Zeller) then you have the possibility of a championship team.

    3> Finally, Yogi Ferrell is underrated for the contribution he is now making to this team. Although still very erratic, having him run this offense has now allowed Oladipo to do more things without the ball as much. He has some traits of a very early Isiah Thomas.

    I expect we will see both teams go a long way in March.

    • avatar Graham Couch says:

      I agree on Yogi Ferrell. He is much improved, even since the first meeting.

    • avatar Tim says:

      You are correct 2 of the 5 best teams played last night…Indiana and Miami. Two others play tonight, Kansas and Syracuse, then Duke on Wednesday.

      • avatar MSU Owns Beilien says:

        MSU beat Kansas, was within 5 points of IU twice, and gave Miami a great game at Miami, quit being a hater Tim.

        • avatar Gambling Gunner says:

          In my opinion, Kansas is not in the top 5 — and they will exit the tourney quicker than the others mentioned.

          • avatar MSU Owns Denard says:

            yep I could see that too, although as good as Miami has looked this year, I could see them slipping up early also.

        • avatar Msu blows Beilien says:

          Kansas ? Is this the same Kansas that gave TCU their only win over a ranked team? The same Kansas tat lost 3 straight to teams never heard of? Yeah that was a HUGE win.

          • avatar MSU Owns Beilien says:

            Yes it’s the same Kansas that swept Kansas State, a team the scUM balls thought was such a great victory ! Or when scUM beat West Virginia, another great victory ! How are they doing? LOLOLOLOLOL

          • avatar MSU Owns Beilien says:

            Also, MSU 75 scUM 52 and it wasn’t NEARLY that close, go back to your basement, school’s in session.

  11. avatar Rebecca Stevens says:

    Doubtful that Tom Crean thinks MSU players are more talented. Very unlikely. He always, after every game raves about how good the opposing team is. Do your research.

  12. avatar Bob Carpentier says:

    Graham
    You state that MSU played their worst first half of the season. IU had nothing to do with that with their play, especially on the defensive end? Not giving any credit to IU for MSU’s poor play demeans the quality of IU’s play. This was a tough, physical battle. The wrap on IU was that they were too soft. I think all that changed after the Illinois game. This game shows they have learned how to play to win, not just to play not to lose.

    You ignore that Indiana led the entire game until the 2 minute mark. This wasn’t a collapse at the end, it was two heavyweights battling for supremacy on this night. Indiana missed an abnormal amount of free throws and open shots throughout the game. Poor officiating plagued the flow of the game, and there were enough missed and incorrect calls to have both sides howling about the officials.

    In the end, you were just plain wrong. Indiana is the better team. They have the talent to match up well with MSU, in spite of your analysis to the contrary. I believe these teams will see each other at least one more time, and possible twice. You said MSU would beat Indiana, I think, 7 of 10 times. Well, they are 0 for 2. It is a long way up to 70% from 0%

    • avatar Graham Couch says:

      Good argument. IU definitely had something to do with it. I also think MSU choked a bit, beyond what the Hoosiers were dishing and IU doesn’t match up well everywhere with MSU (Hulls on Harris, Watford guarding Payne/Nix), but MSU also had no answer for Oladipo.

      • avatar ctstone17 says:

        They may not be able to match up great one 0n one, but as a team, IU finds a way to get it done. I felt MSU had a great chance to beat IU last night. But, the Hoosiers rose to the occasion. Watford and Hulls provide something that has gone unmentioned, and that is SENIOR LEADERSHIP. They maintained the poise needed, and their younger players fed off of them.

      • avatar Bob Carpentier says:

        Graham
        True they don’t match up really well defensively, but IU has too much offensive firepower for MSU to stop completely. Also, the bench gives MSU very little, but IU got great play from Elston, some key minutes from Sheehy(not scoring but slowed down Harris), and Able.
        If defense alone made the best team, MSU wins. But all around, defense, offence, and depth, IU is superior

  13. avatar Keith says:

    I have news for you. If IU hits its free throw like it normally does, if Watford doesn’t get a T, if Thug Nix is t’eed up like he should have been and the lousy foul beyond the arc isn’t called (Harris was leaning into Sheehy)… this game isn’t even close. IU wins by 12. Overall MSU hit better than it’s season average at the line, was allowed to play more from Homer refs and somehow the refs could’nt handle the clock. huh.

    • avatar Graham Couch says:

      Fair analysis, other than the idea that Nix is a thug. That kid may have flaws as a player and person, but he’s no thug. From my dealings, he’s a pretty genuine good guy, sometimes too honest for his own good, and perhaps a tad overly sensitive. But know someone before you call them a thug.

      • avatar Keith says:

        True…on the court and twitter…seems like a good kid otherwise

      • avatar Matt Bates says:

        In addition to what Keith already mentioned, didn’t Nix also get pulled over by the police last summer for a traffic violation and was found with illegal drugs in his car?

        These things are kind of adding up. Certainly a bit of circumstantial evidence of “thuggery” behavior if nothing else.

        • avatar SpartyGreen Is People says:

          Hmm, let’s see according to Merriam-Webster: Thug (n) A brutal ruffian or assassin.

          I think you’re a bit off the mark. Smoking pot being so phsyically harmful to others and all….

          • avatar Matt Bates says:

            Does hitting one with a cheap shot in the gonads qualify as a “ruffian” oh Learned One? Great use of the dictionary.

    • avatar 3M_Rocker says:

      Don’t feed the trolls, people.

      • avatar Matt Bates says:

        Sure I am trolling — but only a little. I actually have an enormous amount of respect for Coach Izzo. His success an d consistency at Michigan State is simply outstanding.

        However, the original article (and then the follow-up for that matter) by Mr. Couch was just so biased and lacking in factual basis, I was and remain astounded. And I grew up in West Lafayette (although I grew up a fervent IU fan), so I understand how the local sports writers and columnists in college towns work.

        Mr. Couch’s lack of a Mea Culpa in his follow-up column today quashed any credibility that he had — at least for occasional readers of this site. And yes, I would “troll” the local newspaper sites in Bloomington, West Lafayette, Ann Arbor, or any other big ten town if I read something similarly disingenuous.

  14. avatar Jack says:

    MSU is a terrific team, especially with last’s year’s Indiana high school Mr. Basketball on the floor but the Hoosiers have the edge even at Breslin which is at least an 8-point homer advantage. Indiana’s balance is what separates them. Last night five players scored in double figures with rebounds, assists, steals, and deflections spread across the group. Add the very good sixth man for IU and you have a very tough TEAM to beat.

  15. avatar K. Gustin says:

    There’s blind loyalty and blind stupidity… Your articles are really stupid. Enough said!

  16. avatar norm says:

    You’ve tried to come up with every excuse as to why MSU lost…perhaps you should look at it as the better team won. I can’t believe every sports columnist for the hometown team that lost to Indiana this year has whined and pouted as you have. Stop trying to save face from the absurdity of Tuesday’s column.

    • avatar Graham Couch says:

      No whining and pouting here. I have no emotional investment in MSU. Calling it like I see it.

    • avatar Eric says:

      Just like this nutjob in western Michigan who thinks Michigan puts out more basketball talent than Indiana even though MSU’s best player is from Fishers/Indianapolis and UM has had two players from Chesterton, Indiana and another from Fort Wayne. Indiana’s roster? Michigan people, I think not.

  17. avatar Scott says:

    MSU is not a better team than Indiana. It was a silly column to begin with, and last night showed that pretty definitively. Whether you’d chalk it up to maturity or something else doesn’t really matter. The better team won, both times.

    That’s not to say that MSU couldn’t beat IU. Of course they could — Butler, Wisconsin, and Illinois did. Sometimes the better team doesn’t win.

    But IU just has so many legitimate weapons that it makes them hard to defend.

  18. avatar Holden Caulfield says:

    Let’s talk about Brandon Dawson for a few minutes. I lost count of this persons ball turnovers at 8…….and then he hit the bench and pretty much stayed collecting slivers of bad karma stares from Izzo.
    And perhps we should consider the below the belt slug fest started by IU……..
    And finally toward the end of the game Izzo looked stunned. Perhaps it was the awful play of MSU or perhaps the possiblity that Tommy over amped his players for the entire day. It was clear the MSU players were very nervous. But would little Tommy Izzo scream and yell at his players all day prior to the start of the game rather than play to their confidence and skill sets?
    And to Brandon Dawson……….no guts, no glory, Brandon. While some of your team mates made errors you alone stand out as a Barney Fife want to be……..you remember the “one bullet wonder”?

    • avatar Keith says:

      Yes because Zeller has the circus like talent of driving to the hoop and bagging guys? Besides, don’t these guys where anything?

    • avatar rob says:

      Cant help to agree on Dawson. Nix, Appling etc. all had bad games ( except Harris and Payne) but I am really getting tired of the Dawson Jekyll and Hyde routine. Mr. show up and score a ton one night and disappear the next. Maybe he was heavily guarded but I doubt it since Izzo pulled him in the final 10 minutes, because his head was obviously not in the right place. I think he needs to get it together or go. On a side note…The only problem with pulling him is there is NO bench. Byrd is a joke, Guana is not Big Ten material and Costello isnt ready YET, he will be. NO recruits next year scares me.

  19. avatar Hoagland says:

    For every point you make, the Hoosiers could say the same thing.

    IU missed their share of free throws as well, shot a lower % of FT’s than they normally do, Zeller was not particularly efficient for his points, and I don’t think anyone would say this was their peak of offensive or defensive performance this year. They did the things they needed to win, yes, but they have had stretches that were much better (The hot start vs. Michigan comes to mind) that you did not see in this game. No huge runs of 10-0 or more happened here.

    Your main point is that MSU played one of its worst games, but you don’t give IU any credit for that. Yes Appling was off, but when it happens twice, shouldn’t some credit go to IU here. What is the chance that he played his two worst games of the season against them and their D and players had nothing to do with it? How about mentioning that Payne has hit a ridiculous amount and percentage of his threes against the Hoosiers, but not against anyone else? Match-ups and schemes have a lot to do with how it seems a player or team plays, you can’t just say MSU had a bad game, but they are better because I think so.

    You say MSU has the better defense with less holes, but they gave up 70+ points and only mustered 10 turnovers. IU has had many more turnovers against teams who I personally think, and would hope you could agree, are far below MSU’s defense. Give credit where it is due, the Hoosiers took care of the ball and MSU couldn’t do enough to force them into turnovers that turned into points.

    Lastly, for those talking about officials, just stop. Every B1G team thinks the officials are terrible in every game. Both teams thought they were last night. The B1G has some of the oldest and worst out there, but that was known and expected by everyone going in to the game. Both teams had to play through calls and respond to things that happened. MSU went on a big run after Watford was called for the Technical (and rightfully so by the rules, no problem with the call). Perfect example of taking advantage of that call, but say it wasn’t called and IU scores there. Completely different game. That is the point, you can’t play what if, the refs call fouls or don’t call fouls and you have to play through that. IU did the better job of bouncing back and weathering the uncertainties.

    If you are looking to crown champions on paper or by the ‘eye test’ then just choose the team with the most McDonald’s All-Americans and highest rated players in every game and don’t even lace them up. Or, you know, do what you are doing and just choose the team you like and justify it in whatever way can prove how you feel.

  20. avatar Keith says:

    One last thought…I think MSU is the more physical team. That is hard to argue with Nix, Dawson and Payne on the court. A problem for IU all year has been Zthat Zeller is often the only guy banging around down low and I think that accounts for smaller than expected stat lines. He gets all the attention down low, but still manages to get 17/8. But, more physical doesn’t mean more talented. Where IU lacks down low, they more than make up for it in the back court and on the wings.

  21. avatar Jockey says:

    “if MSU, playing among its worst games, hits its free throws in the final two minutes, the Spartans beat the Hoosiers and are on top of the Big Ten”.

    THEY DID NOT HIT THEM….THAT’S THE POINT !!

    • avatar Robert says:

      Use all the facts instead of just the ones you want to use. IU got to the FT line much less than their ave. rate. But if the Hoosiers just hit their ave. when they did get to the line last night, that would have been a double digit win. You can’t pick only the facts that make your point. Use the facts on the whole story. Useless article at best homer.

  22. avatar DC Spartan says:

    Maybe nix was right and the players from IU and UM aren’t better, but IU showed more poise and made all the plays. When you elevate yourself into a discussion with players widely considered the best, you can’t lay an egg.

    Nix was nowhere in the first half, Appling had another forgettable game, and Dawson was inconsistent. it’s time for Dawson to show his teammates instead of telling them, effort all the time.

    We’ve now lost to IU twice, basically without a pg. would love to see a B1G tourney rematch and wouldn’t be shocked to meet them in the final four.

    Izzo spoke about distractions, I know it won’t happen, but I’d love for our players to stop watching espn, get off twitter, ignore us fans, and stop listening to anybody discussing their nba future. just listen to the staff and do their job. We’re gonna be okay, I didn’t think we were going 4-0 over this stretch, it just hurts that we had this game until IU took it from us.

    • avatar Chris says:

      “it just hurts that we had this game until IU took it from us”
      You are lucky you were even in the game. IU lead pretty much the entire game.

  23. avatar NorthForkRancher says:

    Nix a thug? Hardly.
    Here is the 9 second clip that shows Zeller grabbing Nix’s arm and puling it into him as he fakes and falls to the floor.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-TxaPP0h-uQ

  24. avatar SpartyGreen Is People says:

    You seem to be taking a lot of abuse, Graham.

    I did not think your article was preposterous. Granted I’m a biased Spartan bathing in the green Kool-Aid, but after how close the first meeting between these two teams was, and the decimation of UofM last week, it wasn’t a huge stretch of the imagination that MSU would be able to take care of business at the Breslin Center against IU. Your breakdown in the match-ups was right on, especially with regards to Harris/Hulls. How many of Harris’ points were in driving to the basket versus his typical raining down three’s?

    Bad calls went both ways, foul trouble went both ways, shooting % was close. I understand that a few free throws here and a few turnovers there could have meant victory for MSU. My focus on the loss is simply on Captain Keith Appling. 6 points with 4 turnovers, so virtually zero impact on the game. Oladipo is the straw that stirs the drink for IU and is their closer (the last 6 points of the game proves that). Appling is MUS’s. Do I credit IU’s stingy defense for Appling’s perfomrance? Sure, some of it… but I would have liked to see a Keith Appling at even 50% of his typical production. Allow me to make a stretch here, Graham, but I don’t think you were counting on MSU’s closer being MIA for the second meeting between these two teams?

    Anyway, I enjoy your writing. Keep up the great work.

    • avatar PB says:

      He may have been right on with his match-ups, just too narrow. He really just focused on the that areas that MSU had an advantage, and either downplayed or ignored IU’s. The biggest thing is that many of the match-ups were against different styles of players.

      • avatar SpartyGreen Is People says:

        But “narrow” is the whole point and what won this game. The oft-abused phrase “margin of error”… again you balance everything out and it’s a rebound here, free-throw there, down to the last half minute of the game. Many are taking Graham to task that this was an IU rout. My point is you have to take into account all IU players in Graham’s match-ups seemed to have, at a minimum, average games while Appling had a very below average performance.

        • avatar Mike says:

          Interesting how his games against Indiana are worse than his games against everyone else. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence as you guys are suggesting.

    • avatar Graham Couch says:

      Thanks, Sparty Green

  25. avatar Big E says:

    IU is a ‘better’ team in every way except, perhaps, raw athletic ability of a coupld of starters. If by ‘talent’ you mean ‘jumping ability’ then yes, Harris & Payne > then Hulls & Watford. But Hulls & Watford are among the top shooters in the nation, they are SKILLED, but not great athletes. Harris has the most upside but missed a lot of shots last night, didn’t he? At the other positions Zeller is better than Nix in every possible way, Oladipo is better than any MSU player, and Ferrel is a better PG than Appling, imo. IU’s bench has Sheehy, Abel & Elston. Very Solid. MSU? Valentine, Trice & one of the big stiffs. The Spartans are a very good team that plays hard. Indiana is the best in the nation.

    • avatar 3M_Rocker says:

      You’re on crack. We make two of those missed 3′s and we win easily. As it is, they only won because of Watford’s ridiculous chuck at the basket that somehow went down. And Ferrel is better than Apps?! LOL…

      • avatar Mike says:

        Payne is 6 for 7 on 3′s in two games against Indiana and 4 for 11 the rest of the season. Take away those fluke 3′s and Indiana wins both games going away.

        • avatar SpartyGreen Is People says:

          You guys are getting into the weeds again… tit-for-tat…you can make an argument on free throws going either way, turn-overs, etc.

          Fact is, all of Indiana’s players at least showed up and contributed to their team’s goal in winning. MSU’s 19.6 avg points-per-game clutch player not show up.

          “Zeller better than Nix in every possible way”… is this why Nix basically shut him down in Bloomington, despite Zeller’s heighth advantage.

        • avatar 3M_Rocker says:

          This is why you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. You don’t know this team. Payne hitting treys is not a fluke.

  26. avatar David Dickerson says:

    I am a long term Pac-10/Pac-12 guy, but have had to look elsewhere for first-rate basketball in recent years. So, I have observed and decried bad/poor/incompetent officiating for years. The last few years, I have watched many many ACC and BTN games. I believe the BTN cannot objectively or accurately claim to have top notch officials. Officiating in the BTN is uneven, meaning that the most aggressive, physical team usually doesn’t have touch fouls called, while the other team does. This drives me nuts, but it is a fact. Case in point is the IU/ILL game in Champaign. The refs seemed to work hard to keep ILL in the game and they succeeded! In the MSU/IU game in Bloomington, Izzo worked the refs very hard and with success = uneven officiating. Yesterday, he hardly worked the refs at all, maybe because he recognized they were favoring MSU from the start. Why doesn’t the press expose uneven, or worse, officiating? Games are played with rules applicable to both teams, and are not supposed to be NBA-style exhibitions where wholesale avoidance of calls on stars is tolerated.
    My analysis of yesterday’s game is that the refs allowed MSU to play a little bit more physical, Hulls hit three big shots, Oladipo was smarter than MSU at the end, Zeller hit 4 early shots +2 early free throws and MSU had difficulty staying close in the first half. The second half was a grind for both teams, neither of which played like a national champion, but likely that was because of the other teams defense and the stage on which they were playing. Also, the timekeeper or clock and the refs adversely affected the flow of the game, and almost affected the outcome with a horrible/shameful call on Sheehey, which was predictable. Both teams could do well when March Madness arrives, but MSU may have peaked a month too soon. The teams are pretty even, but when Zeller shoots well he gives IU an edge; and IU may have a bit more tournament team depth which may give them some insulation from team tiredness in both the BTN tournament and the Big Dance. However, few teams that depend heavily on 3′s survive long in the Big Dance. Too many new and different lighting and color arrangements that affect depth perception slightly for outside shooters to overcome. But if IU emphaizes Oladipo and Zeller on the offensive end, few teams can match that, including MSU.

    • avatar Mike says:

      IU doesn’t rely on the 3, they shoot fewer 3′s than most teams, they are just the best team in the country at making 3′s.

  27. avatar 3M_Rocker says:

    If Apps and Dawson have average days, we beat those punks by 6-8 points. The only thing Indiana has that MSU doesn’t is a player that can take take over in Oladipo. But I think State has more across the board talent.

    I’d love to see a third matchup. I think we would prevail in a somewhat convincing fashion.

    BTW, I think the refs let Zeller get away with murder. That plow into Costello was ridiculous. But the biggest problem was that we missed probably 10 WIDE OPEN treys. Make just a couple of those and we hold on for the win.

    I feel good about the big dance. I think State can win it all because nobody scares us anymore.

  28. avatar Mike says:

    You argue that Michigan State is better defensively but both the statistics and the eye test say Indiana is better. Michigan State has proven after two games that they have no one who can guard Oladipo. Yogi was also able to drive past his defender at will, though he had a poor game finishing. Oladipo’s game winning tip opportunity was created from a drive by Yogi. In addition, both Hulls and Watford, two of the best shooters in the country, repeatedly found themselves open for 3-point shots.

  29. avatar A very ProCouchposter says:

    Very good article Graham, raised a lot of interesting points. I tend to agree with you that Indiana may have shown more poise but MSU has more talent and should be a better team by March. This was good journalism on a par with a lot of the material that Joe Rexrode used to produce.

  30. avatar Dan says:

    I think raw talent is a push – both have their strengths and weaknesses – IU a slightly deeper bench, MSU with slightly more athletic starters. I think coaching is a push. Crean and Izzo are excellent motivators and great at creating an unselfish team that knows how to win. What I think makes IU a better team? IU has had it’s teeth kicked in three out of the last five years. Zeller and Ferrell may not know it first hand, but enough of the other guys do and they carry it with them. They were middling players with so-so recruiting prospects and now they are at the top of the game because they listened to their coaches and put in the time. For toughness, tenacity and coach-ability, I got to give the edge to the Hoosiers. They never think “good enough,” they always think, “how do we get better?”

    Having said that, the conference is so good that any team is beatable on a given night, so the Big Ten play-offs can be won by Ohio, MSU, IU, Wisconsin or Michigan. I will take no bets but I will be glued to the TV.

  31. avatar Harvo45 says:

    If if’s and’s and buts were ice cream candy and nuts we’d all have a grand old party, but the bottom line is IU 2 Mich. st. 0

  32. avatar ryan says:

    IU also did not play their best game last night and were still able to beat MSU for the second time. If we take the results of the game out of the equation and ask who the better team is we can look at some objective evidence (the statistics) and your argument that MSU is better still has holes. You fail to bring any statistical evidence to support your claim. You are only using subjective evidence provided by coaches directly after a win/loss. Lets take out last nights lost opportunities because both teams had lost opportunities (nut shots, elbows, free throws, fouls, turn overs etc.). As a professional journalist I expect more from you and from your editors. If this is an opinion piece then great, otherwise support your claims with a little more evidence as you have asked your readers to do. If this article is an attempt to prompt a response and gain more readers that only works once before you lose credibility as a “journalist” and people move on. I sir will be moving on.
    3 point % MSU (35.1%) compared to IU (42.8%)
    FT% MSU (71.0%) compared to IU (74.5%)
    FG% MSU(46.8%) compared to IU (50%)
    APG MSU (14) compared with IU (15)
    RPG MSU (38) compared with IU (39)
    PPG (70) compared with IU (83)
    TPG tied at 13
    BPG tied at 4
    SPG tied at 8

  33. avatar TsaoTsuG says:

    Interesting challenge. As nearly as I can tell you define three criteria for evaluating whether Indiana or MSU is the better basketball team. One is physicality, another maturity and a third, the role of Victor Oladipo. Allow me to introduce a fourth, intelligence and make my argument why Indiana is the better team, probably solidly so (which does not mean MSU could not win a third and/or fourth game).

    MSU and Indiana are about even. MSU is a very, very physical team inside anwhile Cody Zeller is a very talented, very quick player with great touch he is not nearly the physical force under the boards that Nix. Still he cancels out Nix’s assets with his great shooting touch, his intelligence and his ability to play within himself and what the game is giving him. In terms of physicality, a very small advantage goes to MSU but is very much narrowed where it counts, under the basket, by Zeller’s ability to refuse an ‘openly physical battle’ with MSU’s more physical players. As the great philosopher of war, Tsao Tsu once said, the great warrior will know the territory and engage only when it is to his advantage.

    Which takes the comparison to where Indiana is the dominant team; the intelligence of its players. They were able to define the pace, their recognition of where MSU vulnerability, its tendency to panic if it could not draw Indiana into a physical battle alone. Indiana, on the other hand, recognized that it would have to rely on its passing to create lanes for Oladipo and for Watford and Hulls to attack with salvoes of drone strikes from long range that would not allow MSU to set its defense and face the Hoosier offense one on one. MSU’s fouls were evidence of a defense continually late to its best plans. The ‘intelligence’ factor in the Crean Joint Staff planned and adjusted a near perfect execution of a game plan designed to frustrate and make the MSU players uncomfortable inside their own skins.

    Add to it, when Indiana ‘s greater intelligence established itself; yes, the absence of maturity in adjusting by MSU players showed the absence of patience and excess of bravado in the Spartan troops..

    One player, Victor Oladipos, symbolized the difference during the entire game. Every bit as athletic, focused and physical as the best of MSU’s players; and with laser beam skills and ideas that underlie his spectacular and impressive basketball intelligence in choices that sensed openings and opportunities, created havoc among the Spartans with his defense and, at times, made it seem as if the other nine players on the court were barely supporting actors in his play script.

    Indiana pulled ahead simply by playing better more intense basketball and through Oladipo’s dominance. MSU’s talent and physical dominance inside- in spite of a sometimes passive Zeller- kept it reasonable. When Indiana let down, missed some ill timed free throws, MSU’s physicality and its control in the paint showed and opened an opportunity.

    But, with barely a minute to go, just as the Spartans began to loosen their diaphragm muscles and breathe some belief, Oladipo sliced one final striked of his greased dagger across the throat of the Spartan warriors, opened their beating jugular of the Spartan defense and smiled- while staring into their Spartan eyes- as they slowly shut and bled out.

    Intelligence and the elegant, lethal Special Ops of Victor Oladipo were battle planner Tom Crean’s ultimate and lethal weapon.

    • avatar AAsparty says:

      that was a lovely dissertation Tsao, but you do realize that this was a four point game that was only decided in the last minute, don’t you?

  34. avatar Bob Nemanich says:

    I really don’t understand your “reason” even though you used a lot of words. The game is not played in any imaginary realm where someone thinks this player or that is better or more skilled neither of that matters EXCEPT TO THE LOSERS WHO ARE TRYING TO HANG ON TO SOME EMOTIONAL RESCUE, there is only one determination—–which team won, in this case Indiana has beaten MSU in Bloomington by five and in East Lansing by four, I will wager that when/if MSU plays IU again in Chicago, IU will win by either four or five points and somehow you will try to find some cock-oe-maime contortion to say MSU was better…

  35. avatar Jeremy says:

    My problems with the original article:
    1) Indiana led for the entire game in Bloomington so you have to give a little more explanation if you are going to claim that MSU was the better team during that game
    2)Foul trouble is a part of the game. I bet if Zeller was in foul trouble and IU’s weak frontcourt depth got exposed just as MSU’s weak point guard depth got exposed, you wouldn’t discredit MSU’s win as you essentially did for IU’s win
    3) While you are correct to point out that Hulls is a defensive liability, you fail to mention that IU brings one of the most versatile defenders in the B1G off the bench in Sheehey and another capable defender in Abell
    4) “The “short-porch 3-point line” is not a valid as to why IU beats MSU. In Hulls, Watford, Oladipo, Sheehey, IU has a great collection of shooters, but is not a team that shoots a ton of them. They look to go inside to Zeller first and foremost and are not a team such as Northwestern that is going to beat you with inferior talent just because they get really hot from 3

  36. avatar 3M_Rocker says:

    What’s with the troll take-over? You guys feeling a little insecure? Sure seems that way.

    And Graham, how do you put up with some of the weirdly hostile regulars? It’s some unhinged, irrational rage towards you. Hey people, you don’t like the column, don’t freakin read it. The man is not holding a gun to your head.

  37. avatar DC Spartan says:

    After sampling a few of the pro-IU comments I can conclude the following:

    1) IU has better talent, depth, experience
    2) Nix definitely hit Zeller in the groin
    3) IU wasn’t playing well and still beat us

    Which explains the massive 5 point blowout in Bloomington and another 4 point murder in EL.

    Congrats to our friends down south, and we’ll see you in Chicago. I’m sure IU will hand us another loss since we’re clearly overmatched in every facet of the game.

    • avatar Eric says:

      Is MSU a great team? Yes. If they played IU 10 times, would they win a couple. Sure. A better team than IU? No, sorry. Close wins/losses, but no cigar.

  38. avatar Countdown to 100 says:

    89 posts for Graham Couch

  39. avatar Countdown to 100 says:

    Graham hits 90

  40. avatar Countdown to 100 says:

    and he hits 91

  41. avatar Countdown to 100 says:

    blows right by 93

  42. avatar Countdown to 100 says:

    juke steps to 94

  43. avatar Countdown to 100 says:

    Graham hits 95

  44. avatar Countdown to 100 says:

    96 is not the ceiling folks

  45. avatar Countdown to 100 says:

    97 feels like heaven

  46. avatar Countdown to 100 says:

    feeling great at 98

  47. avatar Countdown to 100 says:

    why draw the line at 99

  48. avatar Countdown to 100 says:

    We are all witnesses they said 100 would not occurr in our lifetime. Take a bow Graham .

  49. avatar Countdown to 100 says:

    100 posts we are all witnesses

  50. avatar lodown says:

    Let’s just face it, IU fans think IU better, MSU fans think MSU is better. Graham’s article was just his opinion (not fact based), which he’s entitled to. Both teams and their fans can spout off about all the what ifs, but so far IU is 2 – 0 vs MSU.
    This is what makes Big Ten Basketball great, passionate fans and great teams.

  51. avatar Eric says:

    Blind loyalty always disregards the other sides’ strengths and points. You can say that MSU would have won had they hit some free throws, but on the flip side, IU would have put it away early if that hadn’t shot so uncharacteristically bad from the free throw lane. Watford, the B1G’s best free throw shooter, missed two in a row. And let’s not start talking abou the phantom foul call on Sheehey when Harris lunged into him at the end.

    • avatar Westside Spartan says:

      That “phantom foul call” is a play has been called a foul for years. You get the defensive man in the air and then shoot while creating contact. It happens nearly every game. Hardly phantom. Easily as “phantom” was the charging foul that should have been called on Zeller when he steamrolled Costello who had position and was set.
      But you are correct that each fan is going to think their team is the best regardless of what the other team’s fans say.
      The proof is in the games, and so far you’ve won two. So advantage IU, for now.

  52. avatar Tom says:

    Let IU enjoy this one team, this one year. They have had so little for so long. The mercy ends come tournament (Izzo) time.

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