You know when you play Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out and you do really well and advance deep into the game — palms sweating, laser focus, all that — before blowing it due to one momentary lapse in concentration (or because your stupid sister walked in front of the TV and tripped on the damn cords)? Seconds later the desire remains, but once you restart the game and have to face Glass Joe again you give up pretty easily and end up losing to that stupid genie. Because all you really want is another shot at Tyson (or Super Macho Man. Full Disclosure: I never got past Super Macho Man.), you don’t want to be wasting your time with all these fools — including Don Flamenco twice!
That, essentially, is what is happening to Tom Izzo and Michigan State this year.
The Spartans entered the season with like 1,500 hundred juniors and seniors that had played in the Final Four twice already. Everyone got their big Izzo-boners after he turned down the Cavs gig, noting that he just had to come back and give it one more go with these guys. They’re so experienced! So weathered! They’ve been through it all!
Guess what? They don’t really seem to care anymore about the regular season.
Last night, in Iowa City, a 9-13 Hawkeyes team beat the christ out of a bunch of listless old men, 72-52. The talented bunch of experienced and savvy purveyors of the court fell behind 30-6 early and trailed by as many as 26 in the second half to a team that lost to South Dakota State.
And what this really boils down to, really, is all the mindless verbal turds people like Jimmy Dykes sell to you on a weekly basis. And, frankly, I’m someone dumb enough to buy it. ‘Of course Michigan State will be good, they’re so old! Nothing can rattle them!’
When John Calipari was hired, or before he even came to Kentucky, I don’t know when he said it, actually, but that doesn’t matter, he said that he would take talent over experience every day. When I heard it, which was definitely after he came to UK, I was all, ‘I guess!’ But more and more it’c becoming apparent — especially given the one year rule — that, yes, talent means significantly more than experience.
Of course, that is not to suggest that experience is always negative or that an optimal team wouldn’t have some mixture of both, but “experience” is fast become a euphemism for “guys that can’t get to the NBA.” Experience doesn’t make you better. Chris Warren didn’t make that shot Tuesday because he was a gritty senior; he made it because he’s a good shooter. And frankly, that’s part of the problem in East Lansing. As old and experienced and smart and well-coached and tough as Michigan State is, their shots don’t go in very much. (Seriously. Watch them play. They miss shots a lot. It sounds weird, but pay attention next time you watch them play.)
So now, basically, the Spartans are boiled down to a bunch of guys spoiled on the Final Four. They’re not that interested right now in the junk that precedes it.
But, of course, they’ll slip in as a 12-seed on a technicality and go to the Final Four. Again.