Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Thoughts on MSU's 42-41 loss to Illinois

(Box score here and BTN highlights here, if you dare)

I never thought I'd see MSU play as poorly offensively as they did in a 43-36 loss to at Iowa in 2008. That was brutal.

Tuesday's 42-41 loss to Illinois came darn close.

Man, was it ugly. MSU shot 14-for-58 from the field. That's 24 percent. By comparison, they shot 31 percent in that 2008 loss. Some shots only got air. Some only got backboard. The result was Illinois' fewest points in a win since 1947. The Spartans are now 1-4 in their last five games at Illinois when ranked in the top 10 of the Coaches Poll.

When Draymond Green plays 16 minutes and Appling has his worst game of the season, 42 points doesn't come as a complete shock. But when you see the amount of layups MSU missed (I lost count at 45) you know the Spartans could have won this game.

Narduzzi: Meyer starting recruiting war

A very interesting story in the Canton (Ohio) Repository today.

MSU defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi was a guest speaker at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Luncheon Club in Canton yesterday, and he didn't exactly have kind words for new Ohio State coach Urban Meyer.

Since taking over the Buckeyes (and not having to prepare the current team for a bowl), Meyer has been on the recruiting warpath and has the No. 3 class in the country, according to Rivals.com. Quite of few of those recruits had previously committed to Big Ten schools, including defensive end Se'Von Pittman, who decommitted from MSU to join the Buckeyes. 

"Jim Tressel and Mark Dantonio would never call or talk to each other’s commitments," Narduzzi told the paper. "People coach Dantonio knows well don’t come in and take players away. When you do, you lose friendships over that."

Can Draymond Green reach the steals record?

Last week, I looked at the hypothetical question of would Delvon Roe had broken the MSU blocks record had he played this season?

Draymond Green is closing in on the rebounds record, but he's also in reach of Mateen Cleaves' steals record.

Here is my MLive post breaking down what Green needs to do to get there (with an appreciation for just how good Magic Johnson was).

Thoughts on Spartans' performance in Senior Bowl

On Saturday, the North won the Senior Bowl, or as I like to call it, the Bowl of Southeastern Conference Aggression (a little Civil War joke for ya).

The score was 23-13, but that's not what matters. In fact, the game isn't even as important as the practices in the week leading up to the game. Still, plenty of NFL coaches and scouts attend the game, evaluating prospects.

(For practice recaps: Here are Day 1Day 2 and Day 3.)

All three Spartans in Mobile, Ala., for the game — Kirk Cousins, Brian Linthicum and Trenton Robinson improved their stock in practice. In the game, scouts look for decision-making, along with the physical tools they saw in practice.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Garrett Celek to play new all-star game

Another Spartan will participate in a college all-star game.

Former MSU tight end Garrett Celek will be in the Players All-Star Classic this Saturday in Little Rock, Ark. Celek had three catches for 35 yards and a touchdown this past season. He finished his career with 14 catches for 135 yards and three touchdowns.

If you haven't heard of this game before, it's because the game is new. According to the game's website:

"The Players All-Star Classic (TM) a new college football all-star game will be played at War Memorial Stadium at 4pm eastern, 3pm central on February 4th, 2012.  The roster will spilt in a North-South format and be made up of a collection of talented players from all levels of college football who are rated as prospects for the 2012 NFL Draft.  Prospects from the roster of a similar game played last year currently boasts over 60 NFL players; the game has agreed to a multi-year deal with War Memorial Stadium. "

Polled: Derrick Nix voted most surprising player

After the loss to Michigan, I put up a poll on who had been the most surprising player on MSU, which has had a surprising season. The results were as follows:

Derrick Nix won quite handily. Big Ten Network's "The Journey" agreed, featuring Nix on the show last night. If you missed it, don't worry. It will air plenty of times during the week.

But let's look at Nix. In his first two seasons, he averaged 2.3 and 2.7 points, respectively. That's up to 8.1 points this season. 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Icers swept at Ferris State, tournament hopes take hit

Going on the road for the first time in 2012, the MSU hockey team suffered a sweep for the second time in four weekends thanks to two one-goal losses to Ferris State.

Things got off to a good start Friday when Matt Berry scored MSU's first powerplay goal in the last 29 chances. But another issue — closing out periods — continued as Ferris tied the game with 17 seconds left in the second period. The Bulldogs scored with 6:30 left in the third and held on for the 2-1 win. Will Yanakeff made 28 saves for MSU.

(Friday video highlights from MSU here)

Saturday also got off to a good start for MSU, as Mike Merrifield put MSU up 1-0 four minutes into the game. But the Spartans were undisciplined. Not long after MSU's goal, Ferris scored a powerplay goal to tie the game. The Bulldogs had eight powerplay opportunities on the night. The late-period struggles also continued, as Ferris took a 2-1 lead with 35 seconds left in the first period.

Some reactions to Spartans in Senior Bowl

I'm not home this weekend, so I don't get NFL Network, meaning I didn't see the Senior Bowl.

However, I still have access to the internet, so I know what happened. I DVRd the game, so I'll watch it next week and give my thoughts on how Kirk Cousins, Brian Linthicum and Trenton Robinson did. The North won, 23-13.

As I've said before, don't look too much into the stats from this game. It's more about if guys make a play or not. The Monday-Wednesday practices are much more important to scouts, and all three Spartans performed well. (For practice recaps from earlier in the week, click here)

Cousins finished 5-for-11 passing for 114 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Report: Board approves Spartan Stadium upgrades

As expected, MSU's Board of Trustees approved the video board and sound system upgrades to Spartan Stadium today, according to The State News.

Per The State News, the project will cost $8 million. Construction will begin in March and be substantially completed by the start of football season in August. However, it won't be completely finished until July 2013. It is unclear how much is considered "substantially complete."

If you haven't seen the planned renovations, click here.

A few final thoughts on Senior Bowl practice

After Wednesday, the interest in Senior Bowl practice wears off, both from media and scouts, as players mostly go through walk-throughs. So there hasn't been as much news the last two days. 

Sports Illustrated got an inside look at Senior Bowl week from a former Chicago Bears staff member. Normally the the players are the stories all week, but this piece looks at the week from the other side. I recommend you read it for some background info 

As for the three Spartans in Mobile, Ala., all appear to have increased their draft stock. 

Team chemistry evident in assist numbers

We keep hearing about how good the men's basketball team's chemistry is. That they like each other both on and off the court.

The on-court chemistry has shown through the number of assists this season. MSU leads the Big Ten with 16.8 assists per game, which would be the fourth-most ever under Tom Izzo. The result has been easier shots and more points.

Here is my MLive post on MSU's assist numbers and how they compare to past MSU teams.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The (hopeful) future of Spartan Stadium

Below is a rendering of what Mark Hollis hopes Spartan Stadium will become. 

MSU has launched ChampionshipsBuiltOnMemberships.com in hopes of raising money to fund these projects and other athletic department goals. Obviously the name is a little long, but the point is pretty obvious, as Mark Hollis lays out on the site.

"The 2012 installation of a sound system and video boards, and other planned enhancements, will not come without a cost. As you read through this brochure, you will discover our vision for Spartan Stadium in 2012 as well as the necessary measures MSU Athletics will need to take to invest valuable resources into the Spartan football program.

Should MSU cut out some of the football student section?

While announcing today that a donation increase will be required for football season tickets for the public, athletics director Mark Hollis brought up the possibility of decreasing the amount of student tickets, according to The State News.

It's perfectly understandable. There's always a huge chunk of the upper deck section empty, and some games, the lower bowl doesn't even completely fill. It doesn't look good for MSU when the rest of the stadium is full. 

There are several reasons for the low turnout. While some students who get stuck with upper bowl tickets sneak into the lower bowl, for the most part, many students just don't come, especially late in the season when the weather gets cold. 

The 13,400 student tickets have actually sold out well before the season started the last few years, but many students buy them to sell them and make a profit and never plan on going.

(From this year's FAU game)

"I think it’s a double-edged sword for an athletic director to make that decision. Because if something rebounds, all of a sudden you’re criticized for not having access for enough of your students," Hollis told The State News. "But you’re also sitting there looking at five out of seven games where your sitting with an empty corner of your student section. … As of today, it’s staying the same, but it’s something we’re looking at for as early as next year.”

Report: Baker invited to NFL Combine

In quite a surprise, the Lansing State Journal is reporting that Edwin Baker has been invited to the NFL Combine.This comes from Baker's financial adviser.

The initial list for the NFL Combine included four Spartans — Kirk Cousins, Keshawn Martin, B.J. Cunningham and Trenton Robinson — and a second list will come out including underclassmen and seniors who surprised during all-star games. Jerel Worthy is expected to be on the second list, but Baker surely would come as a surprise. The Combine takes place from Feb. 22-28 in Indianapolis.

After setting his goal at 2,000 yards, Baker fell well short with 665 this season while Le'Veon Bell became the No. 1 back. Still, Baker declared for the draft saying he felt he was ready. I still think it's likely Baker doesn't get drafted, but this Combine report comes as a shock. If it's true, maybe he'll surprise everyone in the draft as well.

The business of recruiting and MSU

Via BTN's Tom Dienhart, BusinessofCollegeSports.com took at look at the recruiting budgets for men's and women's sports from 2010-11, and MSU is quite low on the list among Big Ten schools:

1. Michigan (9th overall): $1,480,357
2. Illinois (14): $1,328,931
3. Nebraska (19): $1,234,097
4. Ohio State (23): $1,134,013
5. Minnesota (24): $1,130,963
6. Penn State (26): $1,128,129
7. Purdue (41)$954,543
8. Michigan State (42): $941,157
9. Iowa (43): $931,989
10. Indiana (46): $899,047
11. Wisconsin (58): $765,384
12. Northwestern (60): $755,004

With the resources and revenue U-M has, it's no surprise they are so high on the list, but it's a little surprising how low MSU is at first glance. Tom Izzo's recruiting budget increased when he decided to decline an offer from the NBA, and the Spartans have some of the top recruiting classes in the coming years. Also, football recruiting under Mark Dantonio has always been above average, although not elite.

Thoughts on MSU's win vs. Minnesota, Izzo's 400th win

(Box score here)

You're not going to see Tom Izzo fight back tears too often.

As the final seconds ticked away Wednesday, Izzo was visibly teary-eyed on the bench. With Wednesday's 68-52 win over Minnesota, Izzo picked up his 400th win, becoming to fourth coach in Big Ten history to win 400 games with one school (Bob Knight, Gene Keady, Lou Henson). He said before the game that the number didn't mean much to him, but by the end, it clearly did.

"It's just a number, but I guess it's a milestone so I'll take it," Izzo said to Big Ten Network after the game.

(ESPN.com highlights)

Considering the Gophers are a tall team, getting one field goal out of your starting backcourt would appear to mean bad news. But MSU dominated the Gophers down low with a strength advantage. Draymond Green scored a game-high 22 points with 14 rebounds and six assists and the combination of Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne scored 16 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Nix even had a breakaway dunk. It was glorious.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Would Delvon Roe have broken the blocks record?

There have been so many times this season that I've wondered, "How would this team be if Delvon Roe was playing?"

But this time the question popped into my head, I remembered that Roe finished last season second all-time in blocked shots in MSU history.

With his retirement before the season due to knee pain, Roe obviously didn't have a chance to break the record. But had he played this year, would he have broken it?

Notes from third day of Senior Bowl practice

Kirk Cousins' stock seems to be going higher with each practice for the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. He's moving into the fight for third quarterback taken in the draft (behind Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III). I don't think he'll be taken that high, but it looks like lots of teams are coming away impressed with Cousins.

After sitting out yesterday due to injury, Brian Linthicum returned Wednesday and reportedly looked very agile for his size. Since Linthicum wasn't invited to the Combine, this is his best chance to improve his stock before MSU Pro Day. I think he's going to be a steal in this draft.

Trenton Robinson also is starting to get noticed. College Football News projects Cousins and Robinson to be third round picks and Linthicum to be a fifth round pick. That's a lot higher than I expected for Robinson.

Here are the recaps of Day 1 and Day 2 and here is a video of Cousins discussing the Senior Bowl to MSU.

Green named finalist for Senior CLASS Award

Does this award sound familiar?

It's because Kirk Cousins won the football version of this award not long ago. Now MSU is going for the sweep, as Draymond Green is one of 10 finalists for the men's basketball award. William Buford (Ohio State), Robbie Hummel (Purdue) and Zack Novack (Michigan) are the other finalists from the Big Ten.

Here is the release, and below is the commercial that featured the winner Cousins:

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Spartan Stadium scoreboard renderings revealed

The State News was the first to get ahold of these renderings from MSU. The Board of Trustees is expected to vote on whether or not to proceed with the construction at a meeting Friday.

MSU has since tweeted out the renderings on its football Twitter account.

According to The State News: "The system is expected to cost $10 million and be funded through sponsorships and other areas, according to the documents."

If approved, they're expected to be completed by the start of next season.

Overall, it's about what I expected, and of course it looks nice. This has been a needed upgrade to Spartan Stadium. Having a bigger screen in the south end zone clearly helps all viewers. The north screens are smaller, but by splitting them and putting them in the corners, it keeps the view of campus. Notice the ribbon below the north screens. As shown in the image below, that could be the biggest revenue in terms of ads. 

I'm curious if the screen image in the south screen will be at all accurate. I'm a big fan of having the game stats on the screen. 

What do you think?

Notes from second day of Senior Bowl practice

The first day of Senior Bowl practice is fun to talk about because it's the first time everyone gets to see a lot of these players.

But the second day meant pads, and getting down to business.

"Today will be much more like a real game will full pads and full tempo," Kirk Cousins told NFL Network before running back in for a drill.

Once again, there was some more praise for Cousins, despite throwing an interception and fumbling a couple snaps.

Student sections will never be what they used to be

With the latest Izzone controversy being a random comment about Robbie Hummel's ACL, I realized that student sections across the country will never be the same.

The Izzone is given the best seats in college basketball, but more and more of their home-court advantage is being taken away.

Here is my MLive post on the recent Izzone controversy, and how the student sections have lost their luster.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Cousins impresses in first Senior Day practice

Senior Bowl week began today with the weigh-in. Then the players took to the field.

The NFL Network showed an hour of practice, and Kirk Cousins looked great from what I saw. He clearly is more NFL-ready than North teammates Kellen Moore and Russell Wilson, showing off his arm strength in drills.

But what do I know? I'm not a scout. Well, scouts liked him too.

Charlie Bernstein of ESPN/Fox Sports: "Kirk Cousins has been very impressive early in this practice. He looks like the only #NFL QB on this roster."

Scott Kennedy of Scout.com: "#michiganstate's Kirk Cousins throws the ball with a different velocity than Russell Wilson and Kellen Moore. Much stronger arm out here."

Kennedy again: "Kirk Cousins just thread the needle to Gerrell Robinson. Cousins is having a very good day, as is Robinson #Spartans #sundevils"

Listed measurables for Spartans at Senior Bowl

Players were measured today at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. Practices go on this week and game is on Saturday on NFL Network.

Here are the results for the three Spartans in the game:

Kirk Cousins: Height: 6-foot-2.2
                      Weight: 209 pounds
                      Hand length: 9 7/8 inches
                      Arm length: 31 1/4 inches,
                      Wingspan: 74 5/8 inches.
                      (Listed at 6-foot-3, 205 on his MSU bio page)

Brian Linthicum: Height: 6-foot-3.6
                            Weight: 249 pounds
                            Hand length: 9 3/4 inches
                            Arm length: 32 5/8 inches
                            Wingspan: 78 1/2 inches
                            (Listed at 6-foot-5, 245 pounds on his MSU bio page)

Trenton Robinson: Height: 5-foot-9.4
                               Weight: 193 pounds
                               Hand length: 9 3/4 inches
                               Arm length: 30 7/8 inches
                               Wingspan: 73 inches
                               (Listed at 5-foot-10, 195 pounds on his MSU bio page)

Funny how MSU's bios all seem to have the players slightly taller, right? Everyone adds a little bit more to their players.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Mark Dantonio statement on passing of Joe Paterno

From MSU:

“On behalf of my immediate family and the Michigan State football family, we express our deepest sympathy to Joe Paterno’s wife Sue, his five children and 17 grandchildren, as well as his extended family, the Penn State football family and the entire State College community.

“Joe dedicated his life to Penn State and college football. He had unparalleled success during his 46 seasons as the head coach at Penn State. Joe was a major player who helped revolutionize the game of college football. In his six-plus decades at Penn State, he influenced and impacted countless numbers of players and people at a championship level.

“Over the past five years, my wife and I have had the privilege of spending time with both Joe and his wife Sue. We appreciated and enjoyed the time spent at our various functions together and will forever remember him as a steward of our profession.”

RIP, JoePa

A man who did a lot of good, Joe Paterno's legacy surely will be affected by what he didn't do. I'm not going to go into how he should be remembered. That's up to you to form your own opinion. But there's no doubt he had a positive influence on the lives of many.

Here are some reactions from MSU folks:

Kirk Cousins via Twitter: "What a life that Coach Paterno lived. Hope to positively impact people the way that he did. #leaderandlegend."

Le'Veon Bell via Twitter: "At least I got to meet him and tlk to him before he went to a better place...I'm truly blessed for that! #RIPJoePa"

Nick Hill via Twitter: "He will forever live on in the hearts of millions and will never be forgotten. A legend, icon. Greatest coach to ever coach #JoePa"

Jehuu Caulcrick via Twitter: "RIP Jo Pa I had the honor to get recruited and played against your team for years. Truly a icon. College football is Jo PA."

Delvon Roe via Twitter: "Sad day today RIP Joe Paterno

Little John Flowers via Twitter: "Rip Joe Pa it was an honer to be on the same field as you when I played you will be missed"

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Hockey picks up win, tie on weekend vs LSSU (w/ highlights)

Last week against Northern Michigan, MSU's inability to prevent late goals nearly cost them dearly.

It continued to be a problem this weekend, as they allowed a game-tying goal with less than five minutes left in both games against Lake Superior State. On Friday, MSU struck back, winning 4-2. On Saturday, they fell in a shootout.

On Friday, LSSU scored 28 seconds into the game. Midway through the first period, MSU scored two goals two minutes apart from Mike Merrifield and Brett Perlini, respectively. The Lakers tied it up with three minutes left in the game when a Matt Crandell pass from behind his net hit an LSSU player and went past Will Yanakeff for the tying goal.

But Kevin Walrod gave MSU the lead with 1:10 on a rebound and Torey Krug added an empty-netter to seal the win. LSSU carried the play for much of the night and outshot MSU 47-27.

Saturday was a similar script. LSSU took a 1-0 lead, but Dean Chelios tied the game about a minute later. In the third period, Greg Wolfe scored to give MSU the lead, but the Lakers tied the game on a fluky goal when a puck bounced off an LSSU player and past Will Yanakeff with less than five minutes left.

Cunningham, Nichol compete in all-star games

For college all-star games, the practices usually mean more than the game.

That's because so many players play in the game that you can't get a fair read. Also, these games have different rules, such as no blitzing. Practice is where scouts get a better look at players. 

Nevertheless, after impressing people in practice, B.J. Cunningham had a solid day in the East/West Shrine Game in Tampa, finishing with two catches for 26 yards, including a 17-yard touchdown, for the East team. He was thrown to four times. 

In the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl in southern California, Keith Nichol had one catch for 37 yards in the third quarter for the American team. He was thrown to three times. 

Here is a Q&A with Cunningham before the game from MSU, and here is one with Nichol.

Next up is the Senior Bowl on Jan. 28, where Kirk Cousins, Brian Linthicum and Trenton Robinson will compete.

Thoughts on MSU's 83-58 win over Purdue

When the difference in shooting percentages is 31 percent, it's probably not a close game.

The first half was close, but MSU (16-4 overall, 5-2 Big Ten) blew past Purdue in the second half en route to a 83-58 win at Breslin Center, breaking a two-game losing streak and moving into a first-place tie in the Big Ten.

Because of weather issues, the Boilermakers (15-5, 4-3) had to bus to East Lansing in the wee hours of the morning. It had to have an effect. Purdue shot 18-for-62 (29 percent) on the day, mising a ton of open looks. The worst performance of the day came from Purdue's Robbie Hummel, who tied a career-low with two points and shot 0-for-11 from the field. It was the first time he failed to score a field goal.

(ESPN.com highlights)

The game started off really ugly, with bad shots and passes and turnovers. The first points didn't come until just under three minutes into the game.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Food drive for Saturday's game against Purdue

Help some people out, OK?

From MSU:

The 2012 Food Drive benefiting the MSU Student Food Bank and Greater Lansing Food Bank is being held during Saturday's men's basketball game vs. Purdue. Fans attending the game are encouraged to bring non-perishable, non-expired food or personal care items, along with cash donations. Donations will be accepted at all Breslin Center gates. The first 1,000 donors will receive a Spartan rally towel from MSU Federal Credit Union.


From the CCHA's YouTube page, the 1990 CCHA Championship. MSU and Lake Superior State begin a big two-game series tonight at Munn. The game will be on FS Detroit Plus at 7 p.m.

Also, you've probably heard about the incident between Mark Dantonio and a Michigan assistant at a coaching clinic today.

My take: It's nothing. It means nothing. But fans from both sides will make too big of a deal out of it (U-M fans here and MSU fans here). Dantonio doesn't like Michigan. We knew that. All this does is add even more fuel to the fire for this rivalry among fans. Are we going to make it to Oct. 20 before this state breaks out in civil war?

That's all I gots to say about that.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Todd McShay gives B.J. Cunningham some love

B.J. Cunningham has been impressing the scouts at practices for the East/West Shrine Game, which is on Saturday.

ESPN draft expert Todd McShay said he could see Cunningham being taken in the third round. Here's McShay talking about Cunningham on College Football Live:

(h/t The Little Brother Blog)

Road wins in the Big Ten hard to come by for every team

A loss to Michigan does not mean the sky is falling for MSU men's basketball.

MSU already has four conference road games in the rear-view mirror and a 4-2 conference record is nothing to be upset about. If MSU can hold serve at home, and win two or three road games down the stretch, they'll be right in the hunt for the Big Ten title.

Here is my MLive post on how difficult it is to get a road win in the Big Ten.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Poll: Who has been the biggest surprise on the men's basketball team?

A little more than halfway into the 2011-12 season, MSU has performed much better than many expected.

With six newcomers and the loss of two of the better players in program history, there were a lot of questions around this team. But at 15-4 overall and 4-2 in the Big Ten, it's clear MSU is back on track.

But which player has been the biggest surprise?

Keith Appling had a lot of question marks taking over the point, Travis Trice and Brandan Kearney have had an impact as freshmen (Trice early on and Kearney recently). Austin Thornton is playing a bigger role than expected.

So take the poll on the right side of the page. I didn't include Draymond Green because I think everyone expected him to be the top-dog, so to speak. I included "other" as an option. If you think it's someone I left out, explain in the comment section on this post.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Thoughts on MSU's 60-59 loss to U-M

(ESPN highlights here and box score here)

What a game.

It was the most-hyped game in this rivalry in a long time — the first time since 1998 that both were ranked — and boy, did it live up to the billing.

A rough first half for MSU was followed by a back-and-forth second half. MSU grabbed a three-point lead late, but couldn't hold on. Stu Douglass gave Michigan a 60-59 lead with about 30 seconds left, then Draymond Green missed a short jumper and tip-in, as the Wolverines came away with their third straight win against MSU and their first against a top-10 MSU team since 1979.

MSU falls to 15-4 overall and 4-2 in the Big Ten, leaving Illinois as the only one-loss team in the conference.

The star of the night was U-M freshman guard Trey Burke, who had 20 points, four rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks — leading the Wolverines in all of those categories. He was simply incredible. MSU fans can't wait for him to leave for NBA.

Draymond Green named Wooden Award Finalist

The versatile forward has gotten a lot of love as part of MSU's revival this season. So much so that he's a finalist for the Wooden Award, given to the nation's top player.

The 25 finalists were announced today on ESPN.com

Here is what Andy Katz says about Green's chances: "In the mix. If he continues his current pace of scoring and rebounding, Green could end up nudging out Sullinger for Big Ten Player of the Year. The Spartans did lose at Northwestern on Saturday, but Green has been a tremendous leader. He will stay in the chase for a first-team All-American spot if his team stays in the race for the Big Ten title."

Videos: MSU success at Crisler

A little something to get you excited for the game tonight. Tip-off at 7 p.m. on ESPN/ESPN3.com.

1995: Shawn Respert goes off:

Indiana natives Wood, Dawson should play big role in Michigan rivalry game

Tim Hardaway Jr. is the go-to guy for Michigan.

Tom Izzo said Monday that Branden Dawson and Brandon Wood will be matched up with Hardaway for most of the game. While basketball is a team sport, this matchup could be a big key to victory.

Here is my MLive post on the importance of Wood and Dawson tonight. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Four Spartans on initial list for NFL Combine

The initial invitations to the NFL Combine have been sent out to 231 college football players, CBS Sports reported on Saturday. 

Kirk Cousins, B.J. Cunningham, Keshawn Martin and Trenton Robinson have received invites among Spartans. It should be noted that the initial invitation list only includes seniors.

I'm a bit surprised that Brian Linthicum wasn't on the list. He is rated the No. 6 tight end by CBS Sports.

The biggest meeting in a long, long time

Despite two discouraging losses on Saturday, MSU and Michigan come into Tuesday's men's basketball game with a lot of hype.

Before Saturday, it appeared possible that both squads could come into the rivalry game ranked in the top-10 for the first time in history. Still, both will be ranked in a meeting for just the seventh time in the rivalry's history, and the first time since 1998. The game will tip from Ann Arbor at 7 p.m. on ESPN/ESPN3.com

MSU has been one of the biggest surprises in the country this season, using strong defense, rebounding and timely shooting to get to a No. 9 national ranking. U-M is about where people expected and ranked No. 20 by AP. Before Saturday, neither team had a bad loss, and both had a few good wins. These are two of the top teams in the Big Ten, and the winner of Tuesday's game will have a much-needed rebound from a bad loss.

MSU finishes 25th for Directors' Cup fall standings

If you've never heard of the Directors' Cup, it's a way to determine the top college athletic programs across most all sports.

School are awarded points based on how predetermined number of sports teams perform. The cup is divided into three sessions: fall, winter and spring.

In the final fall standings for 2011-12, MSU came in at No. 25.

Stanford always wins the thing because they have so many sports, therefore they have a lot more opportunities to pick up points.

MSU's points came from women's cross county, football and women's volleyball. MSU finished sixth among Big Ten teams, behind Michigan, Penn State, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Illinois.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Icers pick up five points on weekend vs NMU

Coming into the weekend on a three-game losing streak, the MSU hockey team picked up a big five points with a shoot-out win Friday and a regulation win Saturday against Northern Michigan.

The Spartans and Wildcats are now tied in the conference standings.

Friday's game was a high-scoring. NMU(6-7-5-2 CCHA) took a 2-0 lead in the first period, but MSU (7-7-4-2) responded with four straight goals in less than seven minutes from Chris Forfar, Mike Merrifield, Anthony Hayes and Kevin Walrod. It was Merrifield's first game back since getting injured against Michigan in the final home game of 2011.

Hoops winning streak halted with 81-74 loss at Northwestern

The winning streak had to come to an end at some point. Northwestern's style can cause fits for anyone.

Plus Northwestern broke out black jerseys.

The Wildcats (12-5 overall, 2-3 Big Ten) controlled the pace all day, continued to beat MSU (15-3, 4-1) with backdoor cuts and getting to the free-throw line, ending MSU's 15-game winning streak with a 81-74 win Saturday in Evanston. It was Northwestern's most points against MSU since 1979.

Northwestern stormed the court after the win. (Photo via @MattCharboneau)

It was MSU's worst defensive performance since the second half against Duke. Perhaps worst defensive game since Iowa last season. In years past, MSU did a great job preventing the backdoor cuts that are the staple of Northwestern's offense. Not on Saturday. The only Spartans who could stop the backdoor cut were Keith Appling and Draymond Green. Northwestern shot 26-for-52 in the game.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Retainment of Narduzzi shows long-term commitment to football

I wrote this up more than a week ago, and it finally was published.

When MSU came up with the (undisclosed) money to keep Pat Narduzzi, it showed the school's long-term commitment to football success. This wasn't Nick Saban all over again.

Let's be real: Pat Narduzzi is going to be gone sooner rather than later. It's the natural progression for coaches. As Mark Hollis tweeted, Narduzzi's next step is head coach at a big time program. No Akron here.

But after Narduzzi is gone, MSU's defensive success won't go with him. Mark Dantonio and Hollis are two of the lower-paid people in their profession, but the retainment of Narduzzi and scoreboard upgrades show steps toward big-time football success.

Could the GLI be played at Comerica Park?

It's all but certain that the 2013 Winter Classic is going to be played at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor.

Arguing that the Detroit Red Wings should play in, well, Detroit, is too late, although it's a valid argument (that I agree with).

But what about Detroit? According to ESPN, a rink still could be set up at Comerica Park and host some events leading up to the Winter Classic, including the annual Great Lakes Invitational college hockey tournament.

If the Winter Classic can't be played at CoPa, I think the GLI, among other events, could be a solid consolation prize. The tournament is already played in downtown Detroit anyway.

If "Detroit" is hosting the Winter Classic, the city itself should have something.

(h/t @dillondavis)

Where have all the road games gone?

As of Monday, 66 of 345 Division I college basketball programs (19 percent) had yet to win a true road game, including three in the top-25.

In that same span, MSU has won four, continuing Tom Izzo's motto of anyone, any place, any time. More often than not, it has prepared his team for conference and NCAA Tournament success.

Here is my MLive post on the lack of road games being played in college basketball, and how MSU is one team that doesn't shy away from them.

Video: Kirk Cousins at NCAA convention

Kirk Cousins seemed like a smash hit at the 2012 NCAA convention. Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports even said Cousins could be NCAA president someday.

This video is via the NCAA's YouTube account:

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Spartans' position varies in 2012 way-too-early football polls

As soon as a season ends, we want to see preseason rankings for the following season. It's natural.

Although spring football hasn't even started, it's fun to take a look at 2012 rankings. MSU's position in these polls is varied. While everyone agrees the defense should be one of the best in the nation, having to replace a quarterback, receivers and tight ends leaves a question mark.

Here is where MSU is positioned in some early 2012 media polls, along with the writers' comments:

Report: MSU thinking about hockey on aircraft carrier

Mark Hollis helped begin the outdoor hockey craze with The Cold War at Spartan Stadium in 2001.

The stadium has since switched to a grass field, so that likely won't happen again for a long time, if ever. Michigan shattered the attendance record with The Big Chill at The Big House with its artificial turf field last season.

Now the aircraft carrier might be turning into Hollis' venue of choice. His dream of a basketball game on a ship came true in November, and now Hollis has been approached about the idea of a hockey game on a carrier, according to the Detroit Free Press.

There were no more details, other than the fact it has been discussed. This is just another one of many ideas Hollis has been thinking about, and there's certainly no timeline for any of these to become a reality. In late December, Hollis talked about the idea of a basketball game at the site of the first modern Olympics in Greece.

Again, there's no timeline, but it's sure fun to think about these things.

Miami player suspended for hit on Spartan icer

Tyler Biggs of Miami (Ohio) has been suspended for two games by the CCHA for a hit to the head of an MSU player in Friday's overtime contest.

According to the CCHA release: "The action was taken by the league after a review of an incident that occurred near the 3:02 mark of the third period. The review showed the Miami player delivering an illegal hit directly to the head of a Michigan State player."

This is referring to a hit on Matt Grassi, who had to get 8-10 stitches and is out indefinitely with concussion-like symptoms, according to The State News.

Also, here's an explanation of why an Alabama-Huntsville player will be allowed to transfer to MSU for next season and not have to sit out a year. 

(via @anthony_allen_p)

Nick Hill's tattoo, B.J. Cunningham's all-star game

Hill's tattoo is pretty awesome, if you haven't seen it yet.

He's getting some national pub for it, and the consensus seems to be it's a lot nicer than Jerel Worthy's Spartan crushing a Wolverine. I guess you don't have to worry about him transferring.

As for B.J. Cunningham, I'm not sure when the East-West Shrine Game rosters came out, but Cunningham is on the East team. What makes it strange is that two Michigan players are on the West team. Geography be damned.

Senior Bowl rosters have not come out, but Kirk Cousins and Brian Linthicum told the LSJ before the Outback Bowl that they will be in the game.

Tom Izzo's decisions last season paying dividends this year

Few coaches would have done what Tom Izzo did last season: kicking Chris Allen and Korie Lucious off the team before and during the season, respectively.

Despite back-to-back Final Fours, Izzo didn't like where his program was heading, and he had to make sure everyone bought in. One year later, those decisions are paying off — admittedly much sooner than most expected.

Here is my post for MLive describing how Izzo's decisions last year have shaped this season and the program's future.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Spartans blow past Iowa, 95-61, extend winning streak to 15

It was the kind of game where you had to start looking up the last time MSU had won a Big Ten game by this much.

MSU (15-2 overall, 4-0 Big Ten) had to win by at least 38 for it to be MSU's second-largest margin of victory against a Big Ten team, according to the APs Larry Lage. You know what the first is. They had it for much of the second half, but the walk-ons let it slip away in the final two minutes. They showed zero rust having not played a game for a week.

The Hawkeyes (10-8, 2-3) had been on a bit of a roll, winning five of seven entering Tuesday, and had given MSU a lot of problems in three meetings last year. But this isn't last year's team, if that hadn't been established yet.

Derrick Mason retires from NFL

The former Spartan announced his retirement Tuesday.

Mason played 15 years in the NFL and is the all-time leading receiver for the Baltimore Ravens with 471 catches. His 453 catches with the Tennessee Titans put him fifth on their all-time list.

Mason turns 38 next week and played with three different teams this year, being cut by the Ravens, traded by the New York Jets and cut by the Houston Texans. He told Scout.com he's happy he can leave football healthy.

Mason played at MSU from 1993-96, where he finished 12th all-time in catches (120), 11th in receiving yards (1,914), and is the all-time leader in kick-return yards (2,575).

A look inside the AP Poll: Final rankings

With the season over, the final poll doesn't really affect anything, other than the possibility of a split national championship. But the higher you are at the end of the season, it could help your preseason ranking next season.

MSU finished at No.11 in the AP Poll and No. 10 in the Coaches Poll. Around MSU, Wisconsin finished at No. 10 and Michigan at No. 12. It makes sense that those three teams are around each other, and you could argue that any one should be ranked highest.

But let's take a look at some individual ballots (click on voter's name to see ballot).

MSU was ranked as high as No. 8 and as low as No. 19. The highest vote came from John Niyo of The Detroit News. Niyo has Wisconsin at No. 11, Michigan at No. 13 and has Oregon at its highest spot at No. 4.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Rush named FWAA Freshman All-American

I thought all of these teams had come out, but I guess not.

Rush has been recognized on a lot of freshman lists, the latest being the Football Writers Association of America.

Rush had 58 tackles and four sacks in his first season as a starter.

Johnny Adams returns for senior season

It appears Johnny Adams won't make the same questionable jump to the NFL that Edwin Baker did.

Adams had said prior to the Outback Bowl he was looking at his NFL options, and who could blame him? Every junior might as well check everything out. But it appears Adams made a smart decision.

Earlier today, Adams tweeted, "Back in East Lansing for my senior year!!!!!" MSU confirmed as much, saying he is enrolled and attended a team meeting this morning.

With Adams back, MSU has nine of 11 bowl starters returning on defense, including three of four spots in the secondary.

Adams was named First Team All-Big Ten by the coaches and second team by the media this past season. He had three interceptions, three sacks and 51 tackles in his junior season.

Five questions as MSU football heads into spring

With the 2011 season officially in the books after tonight's national championship game, it's time to take a look at what MSU's biggest issues are going to be heading into spring ball.

1. How will Andrew Maxwell transition into the starting role?

I wrote about Maxwell last week. He has all the physical tools to succeed Kirk Cousins, the winningest quarterback in school history. Maxwell also has one of the Big Ten's best running backs, one of the best defenses and one of the most-experienced offensive lines to help him. The only things Maxwell doesn't have are experience and wide receivers. Maxwell knows the offense, as he will be a fourth-year junior next year. He just needs to take everything and show it on on the field.

2. Who will be the new defensive tackles?

Poll: Who was your Spartan football MVP?

The last poll I did came after the Big Ten-Pac-12 scheduling agreement. I asked what Pac-12 team you would most likely want to see MSU play. The results were as follows:

Oregon: 22
USC: 9
Stanford: 8
Arizona State: 6
Arizona: 1

I voted for UCLA because of the teams' tradition and playing in the Rose Bowl. Apparently a lot of you want to see the high-octane offense of Oregon.

So it's time for a new poll: Who was your MSU football MVP this past season? I'm leaning toward Max Bullough because he was the center of the Big Ten's top defense. MSU was carried by its defense this season, and Bullough nearly made people forget about Greg Jones.

What do you think? The poll is on the right side of this page.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Who wants to date Morten Andersen?

The former Spartan and NFL great stars in this reality show spoof for the NFL Network.

"I'm sorry. Your kick has gone wide right."

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Icers swept by Red Hawks

Coming off shaky performances in the Great Lake Invitational, the MSU hockey team's struggles continued with a home sweep at the hands of Miami (Ohio).

The Spartans lost 2-1 in overtime Friday and 4-0 on Saturday. 

The biggest culprit on the weekend was the powerplay, which went 0-for-13 over two games. 

On Friday, the two regulation goals were scored 12 seconds apart late in the first period. MSU outshot Miami 34-23 in regulation, but was outshot 4-0 in overtime and the Red Hawks won the game 1:24 into overtime. MSU went 0-for-5 in the powerplay on the night. A win would have moved MSU into a tie for fourth place in the CCHA, but the loss put them in ninth.

Saturday's game was a physical affair, with a total of 20 penalties on the night. Will Yanakeff got the nod in goal and didn't get much help, facing 44 shots. MSU put just 20 on goal.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Narduzzi remains at MSU defensive coordinator

After much speculation, MSU has just announced that Pat Narduzzi will remain as defensive coordinator, spurning interest from Texas A&M.

Letting Narduzzi make a lateral move to A&M would have been a PR disaster for MSU. He's not going to stay at MSU forever, nor probably even much longer, but keeping an assistant coach is always a good thing. Mark Hollis said in a tweet (below) that Narduzzi's next step is head coach of a big program. That appears to be a sign that MSU won't lose its assistants to other schools to be an assistant, meaning they want to continue to compete with the big boys.

Narduzzi's defense was one of the best in the nation this season, and it should be even better as nine of 11 Outback Bowl starters are set to return (unless Johnny Adams also makes a surprising jump).

Specific contract numbers have not been released.

Here are quotes per MSU release:

AP: Edwin Baker to declare for NFL Draft

This according to Larry Lage of The Associated Press.

This certainly comes as a surprise. After saying before the season his goal was 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns, Baker finished with just 665 yards and five touchdowns on 170 carries, clearly finishing the season as the No. 2 back behind Le'Veon Bell. In 2010, he had 1,201 yards and 13 touchdowns and was an All-Big Ten selection, leading to his lofty goals for 2011.

Baker does have a 1-year-old son, but told Joe Rexrode of the LSJ that Edwin Jr. was not a primary factor, just saying he felt he was ready.

With Bell's emergence, people wouldn't have been shocked if Baker transferred. But entering the draft seemed to come out of nowhere.

Andrew Maxwell, come on down

In five seasons as head coach, Mark Dantonio basically has had just two starting quarterbacks: Brian Hoyer and Kirk Cousins.

With Cousins' career in the books, current redshirt sophomore Andrew Maxwell is expected to move into the starting role. Maxwell was a touted recruit who has gotten a lot of praise from those inside the MSU program, but he's a bit unknown to those outside it.

Here is my MLive post on Andrew Maxwell taking the reins.

Lowe's Senior CLASS Award video for Cousins

I think this video sums up Kirk Cousins pretty well. It should air during the BCS National Championship.