This year’s Spartan Basketball team is great. We’ve all seen it. Coach Tom Izzo has also stated that this is his best team he’s ever had. Then, we look at this group of players and we wonder, how are these guys better than Mateen Cleaves or Drew Neitzel?
Then, we start to see. Most teams can keep up with us in the first half. But once we get into the second half, we see that we’re wearing them down and we start to take a big lead. A perfect example of this situation was the game against Purdue on Sunday. Click here to watch ESPN’s highlights of that game.
If you look at these 3 games I chose for the Michigan State Spartans, you’ll see what I mean.
You can easily tell by this chart that I made here is that even the worst of teams (ie Central Connecticut), can keep up with MSU in the first half, let alone teams like Wisconsin or Ohio State. But once we get to the second half, we blow teams out of the water. Why? Because we have the best depth. You may not realize it, but the only players on the Spartans that haven’t lost their starting job the entire year are Draymond Green, Keith Appling, and Branden Dawson. I can’t even name 5 solid starters on the Spartans because Izzo benches players frequently because of performance issues. Which sounds like a bad thing, but the fact that Izzo can bench someone who isn’t playing well and be able to put in a replacement who can do just as good of a job is a pretty big accomplishment.
Brandon Wood, Derrick Nix, Adreian Payne, Travis Trice, and Austin Thornton all have been impact players on this team, yet none of them have had a starting job at their respective position all year. Brandon Wood averages almost 10 points a game, off the bench. Derrick Nix is becoming one of the most important players on this year’s team, off the bench. That’s why we’re winning these games. Around the 10 minute mark in the second half, teams start to get sluggish. Meanwhile, the Spartans are rotating in fresh legs in like it’s the middle of the first half. If our bench can keep up the great work throughout the rest of the season and all through the tournament, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Final Four berth.