The Spartans suddenly find themselves mired in a three game losing streak and the play of the squad has been, of course, less than pretty during this stretch. What has made it particularly troubling is that the streak comes on the heels of the team’s finest hour this season. No, not the Nebraska victory, the colossal drubbing of then No. 4 Michigan at home. It definitely appeared as though the Spartans had finally put it all together and were going to be full speed ahead for the remainder of this season, barring injuries. Since oh, around the second half of the Indiana game, the MSU team that drove us crazy earlier in the year decided to come back and visit for a time. Defensive lapses, offensive woes, bumbling through stretches of each game. Good stuff. Sigh. Jameson chided himself for posting this recap, but I felt as though he captured the way many of us felt rather well. Losing streaks take a toll on the fan base.
In the aftermath of the first game against Michigan, there was some moaning from Derrick Nix about how the Spartans hadn’t been given much respect or attention this season. His statement’s weren’t inaccurate, but they likely weren’t helpful either. I mean, it’s best to let your play speak for you in this regard. Win and the accolades will follow. It also occurs to me that he was speaking out at the time for more than just himself. Perhaps a number of Spartans felt they had arrived? Possibly, a few of them allowed themselves to get carried away by the rush of winning that big game? Of course that is pure speculation, but since Izzo has criticized the leadership of his players a few times since that game I think it is entirely possible that some of the guys had grown too media dependent.
Two players have struggled mightily of late. Dawson has 8 points, 8 points, and 2 points in his last three games. Appling has put up 6 points, 3 points, and 9 points.The play of Keith Appling is easily the most worrisome for me, however. The Spartans will only go so far as Keith can take them. I know many people have suggested that he be pulled from the lineup due to their frustration with his play, and I get where these folks are coming from. The question is, who plays in his stead? Trice? Travis Trice is a great asset off the bench but that is the most he can be. Valentine? Denzel Valentine is not ready to take the helm. In another year, maybe. Certainly not now. This is Appling’s team to lead and when he is right so are the Spartans. I am confident that he will emerge from the funk he has been in and get the team back on track in the process.
As for the rest of the team, this bit of adversity they are facing could end up being a blessing in the long run. The big dance looms and MSU is still in position to get a favorable slot despite the recent difficulties. I’d rather see them struggle now then watch them do so in the tournament. They won’t be media darlings, many pundits will write them off. Who cares? Just play.