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Experience v. Burnout: A Study of Michigan State Basketball

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.

Article written by Evan Hilbert

50 Comments for Experience v. Burnout: A Study of Michigan State Basketball

  1. Bryan
    1:41 pm February 3, 2011 Permalink


  2. Gary Busey
    1:42 pm February 3, 2011 Permalink

    007-373-5963 gets you to Tyson, so you don’t have to beat all of those other chumps!

  3. Bleedblue
    1:44 pm February 3, 2011 Permalink

    Evan – talent. BTI – Experience.

  4. Stack
    1:48 pm February 3, 2011 Permalink

    Yea you are prolly right. As bad as they have been, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them in the final four again.

  5. Jimmywa11
    1:55 pm February 3, 2011 Permalink

    evan this is talent. and so true.

  6. claw
    1:56 pm February 3, 2011 Permalink

    Everyone got their big Izzo-boners? I thought SexnNursing Homes hacked into KSR posing as Evan Hilbert. Whatever, good read.

  7. Coach Cal Can't Coach
    2:02 pm February 3, 2011 Permalink

    Good work Evan you found one team with veterans that is going through a slump. In your extensive research, I beleive you overlooked that any team that has ever won a chmapionship was led by juniors and seniors. You are as foolish as Cal if you think that a talented team of freshmen will ever gor to the final four. It just does not happen. Please prove me otherwise.

  8. beau
    2:05 pm February 3, 2011 Permalink

    8) Syracuse w/Carmelo Anthony. Enough said. And if that’s not enough, the Fab Five made it to the title game as freshmen.

  9. beau
    2:06 pm February 3, 2011 Permalink

    that was supposed to be #8…. damn smiley face thing.

  10. Go Cats
    2:09 pm February 3, 2011 Permalink

    Ohio State made a good run with almost all freshman. They just ran into a very talented, not experienced, Florida team.

    Talent over experience every time.

  11. DoubleZeroMostel
    2:09 pm February 3, 2011 Permalink

    epic post. bravo.

  12. gossie21
    2:12 pm February 3, 2011 Permalink

    #7 Just because a team fails to win a championship doesn’t mean they aren’t any good. Several teams lead by freshman and sophomores have made it far in the NCAA tournament. In fact the 2006 Florida team was lead almost exclusively by sophomores, and outside of Horford they had little to no experience before the year started. You also have the Fab 5 who made 2 consecutive final fours, OSU in 07 made the final game. And Syracuse won the title in 2003 with two key freshman.

  13. old-school
    2:14 pm February 3, 2011 Permalink

    Ohio State 2010 – young talent
    UK 1996 – experienced talent/talented experience (you take your pick)

    UK 2009-10 – young talent
    Duke 2009-10 – experienced talent/talented experience (you take your pick)

    Why does talent and experience have to be mutually exclusive. Kentucky should and could strive to have both. And the combination is what is really dangerous come tournament time.

  14. Izzo
    2:16 pm February 3, 2011 Permalink

    Six final fours in 12 yrs. Yeah, my system sucks. Typical apologists for The Vacater cherry-picking facts to back up their claims.

  15. Dan Teeman
    2:17 pm February 3, 2011 Permalink

    8) Glad you picked out two teams in the past 20 years. Look at Duke, West Virginia, and Michigan St. did it with Juniors and Seniors. That’s 3 in the last year.

  16. IowaCat
    2:20 pm February 3, 2011 Permalink

    Hey now, take it easy on making fun of the Hawkeyes. Afterall, Iowa beat Alabama, unlike a certain other team I follow…

  17. Nassau65
    2:20 pm February 3, 2011 Permalink

    Mindless verbal turds. I like it.

  18. Scared to be a fan
    2:20 pm February 3, 2011 Permalink

    17 – for every experienced team you name that makes a run, I can name 10 experienced teams that fell up short. Just last year, Syracuse, Kansas, ect. When 95% of the teams in a tourney are experienced and only 5% unexperienced, who do think is going to win majority of the time?

  19. Scared to be a fan
    2:23 pm February 3, 2011 Permalink

    I guess everyone looks past all the teams that have experience but dont make it. I mean, the youngest team (UK) made it further than 2 other #1 seeds.

  20. 49 Chevy
    2:23 pm February 3, 2011 Permalink

    Izzo has mediocre season records(10+ losses), a boring style of play, and almost always peters out in the final four*.

    Remember when there were a few that wanted him to come here? Thank God he didn’t. It would be just like tubbi ball only with a handful of FF losses to polish the turd.

    *When someone brags about having X amount of final fours, it is usually because they couldn’t win the title. Remember when duke’s number of FF’s were touted daily? At that time they only had 2 titles. Now what do you hear? Same for UNC.

  21. Liz Lemmon
    2:25 pm February 3, 2011 Permalink

    17 – uh…the statement he was responding to said “any team that has ever won a chmapionship was led by juniors and seniors”…so two teams in the past 20 years fits into that category. Wow, way to look back 3 whole years for your comment. You must be a L’ville fan…I almost said ‘dumb L’ville fan’ but that would be redundant.

  22. Stickman
    2:31 pm February 3, 2011 Permalink

    “You are as foolish as Cal if you think that a talented team of freshmen will ever gor to the final four. It just does not happen. Please prove me otherwise”

    Wow, can’t believe I just read that on a sports site in the greatest basketball state in the nation.

    I’m sure the others who have already mentioned the Fab Five in 1992 took about as long as me to think of the answer to prove you otherwise–about .0003 seconds.

  23. Stickman
    2:33 pm February 3, 2011 Permalink

    I’m not a Michigan State fan, but I’d rather have 6 final four losses in 12 years than no final four appearances at all in 12 years.

    I think Cal is our man to break that streak of no final four appearances. Just give him time. Unlike the coach of the other major sport at UK, Cal came into this job with experience and brings the talent to the team to do it. 2 distinct differences between Cal and Joke.

  24. Izzo for HOF
    2:37 pm February 3, 2011 Permalink

    #23 – What exactly is success to you if its not 7 Elite 8s, 6 Final Fours, 2 title games and 1 NCAA championship in 12 yrs?

    All at the number 2 school in his state, while playing that state’s number 2 sport. Think about that for a moment. It would be like coaching football at the number 2 school in Kentucky or Carolina.

  25. Al's IndiCats
    2:38 pm February 3, 2011 Permalink

    OK, I agree it takes both talent and experience to go far in the tourny, but the one thing you have to remember it also take a helluva lot of LUCK….You know like the “LUCK” Dook always gets playing in their state year in and Year out until the elite eight and final four.

  26. Viren
    2:41 pm February 3, 2011 Permalink

    Here is the difference between UNC, KANSAS, DUKE and our UK Wildcats is that when we crack final four door open we GO HOME WITH A NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP better than one out of 2 final four. UK 13 FF = 7 NCAA Championship 1 NC: 2 FF. Duke 15 FF = 4 NCAA Championship = 1 NC: 4 FF. KANSAS 13 FF = 3 NCAA Championship = 1 NC: 4 FF. UNC 18 FF = 5 NCAA Championship = 1 NC: 4 FF. As you guys can see we have a better winning percentages when we get to the final four. Who knows what would have happened if we had gotten past EE 3 times since the 1998. All three times we had a great chance of winning the whole thing. Twice Michigan State stopped UK in Elite Eight, I hope we do not have to worry about them this year. Or DO WE?

  27. Izzo's NCAA record
    2:44 pm February 3, 2011 Permalink

    Last 12 seasons:

    Round 1: 9-3
    Round 2: 8-1
    Swett 16: 7-1
    Elite 8: 6-1
    Final Four: 2-4
    Title Game: 1-1

    That is an amazing record, yet people with an agenda with focus on the one round where he has a losing record and try to somehow say that stat defines him.

    He’s 13-2 in the second weekend of the tourney, when all games are tough. 13-2!!! Those of you who want to somehow toss that out have no allegiance whatsoever to the truth.

  28. Big Blue 66
    2:44 pm February 3, 2011 Permalink

    I think Izzo is burned out big time, remember he was hinting around for UK to come after him when we let Billy G go, then it was the going to the NBA rumors. Those were big time hints that Izzo is burned out of E Lansing.

  29. Al's IndiCats
    2:46 pm February 3, 2011 Permalink

    26 I agree, I feel in about 2 or 3 more years Cal will take us to where we rightfully belong. We’ll be the KINGS OF THE WORLD again.

  30. Rich
    2:51 pm February 3, 2011 Permalink

    Out of curiosity, why all the hate towards Jimmy Dykes?

  31. Roofus Howls
    2:51 pm February 3, 2011 Permalink

    How do you please someone like Cal Can’t Coach (I don’t know if CCC is a UK fan or not)?

    For years UK fans complained about Tubby’s recruiting – specifically his inability to recruit HS AAs – and style of play. Gillispie came in and set the bar even lower (with apologies and exception to Patterson and Orton). So Cal goes out and brings in the # 1 class in the country 3 years in a row – and fans complain again. The complaints are centered around the fact that he reloaded with such good players that the first batch found themeselves leaving after one year – and Cal was cool with it.

    The second group is good, but not quite as good as the first bunch and to make matters worse, the players brought in by Tubby and Gillispie – who fans pretty much reviled, are almost all gone – leaving a very thin, inexperienced bench. Now when the young guys need a minute, there is nobody else to lend a hand.

    Next year could be similar if Knight, Lamb, and Jones all go to the NBA; however next year’s outlook improves dramatically with any one of that trio that returns to school – not to mention the development of Stacey Poole.

    Great players will leave early. Especially in a system that allows them to showcase their talents. But that’s what draws them to UK.

    The 1996 comparisons aren’t relevant to 2011. Not only was that 15 years ago, but that was eons ago in terms of players declaring for the NBA draft.

  32. Izzo's NCAA record
    2:57 pm February 3, 2011 Permalink

    #29, You are comparing what those teams have done in the last 30 years to what UK did mainly in the 1940s and 1950s. Of your “7 out of 13 stats” for UK, four of those titles came before nearly everyone on this thread was born. UK has been to 8 Final Fours in the last 52 seasons. 8 in 52 years!! That’s only two more than Izzo has in less than 1/4 the time.

  33. Coach Cal Can't Coach
    3:13 pm February 3, 2011 Permalink

    I want to apologize to everyone for being an idiot. I want to be proved wrong but yet I don’t want to go through the process to be proved wrong.

  34. kyrobman
    3:22 pm February 3, 2011 Permalink

    We Will be fine. Give us time

  35. Viren
    3:22 pm February 3, 2011 Permalink

    #35 Why draw lines to the at 30 years ago. If the records have been kept since 1939, you have to count those accomplishments. If were not good in almost every decade we would not be the winning-est D-I college basketball program. I love the fact that you want to draw lines and point to your good years, so why not count all of the accomplishments that way no school can say we were good from 90s to 2011 or 50s to 2011. Michigan State prior to these past 12 years was irrelevant had one National Championship and 2 final four.

  36. Viren
    3:30 pm February 3, 2011 Permalink

    I was not born during 10 NCAA Championships UCLA won with John Wooden. Just because I was not born in that era does not mean college basketball did not exist and Wooden did not win those titles.

  37. Simpleton
    3:34 pm February 3, 2011 Permalink

    Did anyone even consider that Izzo lost his team during the off season while flirting with the NBA??? Why do you think Cal denied everytime someone mentioned his NBA interests.

  38. Colonel Sanders
    4:00 pm February 3, 2011 Permalink

    Offended Spartan fans please return here at tourny time when we are getting ready for a run at the FF and your team is prepairing for the NIT. With 5 of your remaining 8 games against ranked opponents and 3 of those on the road….ouch.

  39. Izzo's NCAA record
    4:03 pm February 3, 2011 Permalink

    #38-39, I am not belittling UK tradition or accomplishments by Rupp, Wooden or anyone else who coached before the modern era (which I define as anything after the Magic-Bird game). I’m just saying you are comparing Izzo’s record in the final four against Rupp’s record in the final four, when Rupp won four of his titles over half a century ago. The game is a nearly unrecognizable version of what it was then and the depth of teams across the nation has increased dramaticially. To say “Izzo usually loses in the Final Four and we usually win” based on what happened in 1948 and 1949 is a totally meaningless statement.

    If you want to be honest and compare apple to apples, you will look at the modern era, where UK is clearly among the top programs in the country, but not lightyears ahead of the pack as many of you suggest.

  40. John
    4:12 pm February 3, 2011 Permalink


    From memory of my youth, I thought it was up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, b, a, b, a.

  41. 49 Chevy
    4:19 pm February 3, 2011 Permalink

    Success is sustained over a period of time. Not just a brief spurt of a few years.

    Kentucky is the only, ONLY, school to be in the top 10 in wins for each decade since 1940.

    When we get to a FF, our record is not 24-11 or 22-13. It is usually 30+ wins and less than 6 losses. I think maybe Izzo’s record and results may be more indicative of luck of the draw as opposed to coaching/talent.

  42. Outsider237
    4:20 pm February 3, 2011 Permalink

    I guess when you talk about the fab five being one of the inexperienced teams to make the final four we all forget that not only did that not happen they never existed! After the scandal and FBI investigations and trials decimated the program!

  43. Rajon9rondo
    4:31 pm February 3, 2011 Permalink

    This is a pointless post in the first place. Nothing more than a chance for Evan to try and emulate deadspin and their writing style, most notably Drew Magary and his weekly NFL picks column. The only real basketball discussion being had is occurring in the comments section, and not the actual post. Not a good look.

  44. flaashley
    4:44 pm February 3, 2011 Permalink

    as long as they don’t beat Kentucky in double overtime and I get a dui, I don’t care if they go to the final four.

  45. dvorak
    5:04 pm February 3, 2011 Permalink

    However painful it might be, we must be honest-the Spartans have a much better chance of making it to the Final Four than we do. Our team is headed in the wrong direction fast. For some time I’ve been feeling that Calapari and BCG might share one fatal flaw, viz. that neither can admit it when they’re wrong, that their formula isn’t working and that substantial changes need to be made. In other words, they are going to win “their way” or no way. If Calapari continues to believe that we can win on talent alone (as reflected in his whole recruiting approach), his players will continue to believe the same thing and fail to develop. Just an observation from a concerned fan…….

  46. Wildcat Singularity
    6:10 pm February 3, 2011 Permalink

    Why are MSU and OSU fans the only ones who care about “almost” winning it all in the big leagues? In other programs, you celebrate when you win. With the Big Ten State School Duo, “almost getting there” seems to imply superiority. So tell me, dear Izzo butt-sniffer: when you guys win the NIT this year, will you hang that up next to your army of failure – er, Final Four – banners?

    There’s a reason nobody cares about Michigan State come tourny time – it’s because everyone knows they’ll flame out, like always, in the FF or so.

  47. Captain Obvious
    7:16 pm February 3, 2011 Permalink

    I guess thats why UK’s super talented 5 NBA players team last year lost to an experience WV team. I think the combination of some experience and talent wins championships (Duke)

  48. Jed Hilbert
    7:17 pm February 3, 2011 Permalink

    John, #43, you are thinking of Contra. And that bad boy would have gotten you 30 lives!

  49. Greg Hilbert
    10:00 pm February 3, 2011 Permalink

    Hey Evan, that’s a fair enough article, and it’s cool as hell to see the family name popping up on here. Peace Brothers!