Michigan State Spartans- 2012 Big Ten Champions

Congratulations to Tom Izzo and the Michigan State Spartans men's basketball team for winning at least a share of the 2012 Big Ten regular season championship.  A win tonight at Indiana or a win Sunday against Ohio State earns the Spartans the title outright.

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Indiana has only lost once at home this year and they have won 5 of their last 6 by an average of 14.6 points.  Indiana still has an extremely outside chance at getting a 3 seed for the B1G Tournament as everyone is posturing for seeding with two games left to play.

I have faith that if they don't win tonight, the Spartans will win against Ohio State on Senior Night for one of the best Spartans of all time.  Draymond Green is finally getting the national recognition he deserves for the player that he is.  For years he has been recognized for his leadership and now everyone is also noticing his playing ability.  Day Day was a freshman my first year covering the team and I felt a special connection to him, Delvon Roe, and Korie Lucious because when they were freshmen they were the only ones on the team who would talk to me after games.

It would be a travesty to not mention the impact of the often criticized Austin Thornton.  Thornton, the former preferred walk-on, is proving very important to the team with his rebounding ability, decent defense, and outstanding shooting now that he has confidence in his shot.  This was the best shooter on the team that I saw 3 years ago before he lost all his confidence.

I don't know anybody who predicted this for Michigan State.  The team is still young, but they have come together very quickly this year.  People predicted early on that this was a team for fans to love and one that brought back memories of the hard-working, high-flying Flintstones teams of the late 90's early 00's and this team has not disappointed.  This is one of Tom Izzo's best years and he will surely be named not only Big Ten Coach of the Year but also National Coach of the Year.

Derrick Nix is one of the great stories of the team this year.  For 2+ years the only story has been about his weight fluctuations.  Now he has put himself in the mix for B1G 6th Man of the Year.  Nix is averaging 10 minutes per game more than last year.  More importantly, his impact on the game is felt from the moment he enters.  He is turning into the force in the paint that every great Spartan team has.  Nix has gained a lot of fans this season and decided to win over everyone against Nebraska with this steal and breakaway dunk.  Day Day isn't the only "point-forward" on the team anymore!

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I didn't realize there was a camera on me catching my reaction to the Nix dunk.  That's what happens when you can't control your excitement.

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Brandon Wood also deserves full honor as a senior on Sunday.  In his one year with the team he has played an integral part in the success.  He provided leadership early on along with great shooting.  When he started to struggle mid-season, Tom Izzo decided to bring him off the bench and it not only re-energized Wood but the Spartans as a whole.

And a special thank you goes out to Delvon Roe.  He might be Tom Izzo's favorite player for how tough he was.  There was not a press conference or interview Izzo ever did where he did not mention the grit and toughness that Roe had playing through all the injuries and both physical and emotional pain in his shortened career.

Tom Izzo put it best in a statement released to the media after earning a share of the B1G Title- "We’re excited and proud of what’s been accomplished so far, but it’s miniscule compared to what we have a chance to accomplish down the road. And we’re going to keep working for our ultimate goals, which as we reassess, are now to win the Big Ten outright, to be playing our best basketball at the end of the year, to go into the Big Ten Tournament feeling good about ourselves, to try to get the highest seed we can get which will help us in the NCAA Tournament."

This is the time to go out and win these two games to prove dominance over the league and take the title outright with force.  Izzo is right.  What has been accomplished so far is great, and now the expectation is to go out and actually win a B1G Tournament and get a 1 seed in the Big Dance.  With Izzo and Draymond Green leading the team, I feel more confident that it will happen than ever.

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