The B1G Tournament final is set, and it will be a match-up of the two of the most consistent programs in the conference the last decade. Maryland tried to make the semi complete chalk, but fell short late. Let's take a look at what this game taught us.
What We Learned:
These Spartans are going to fight
Michigan State dug themselves a hole early, going down 23-7 in the first half. However, Tom Izzo's team kept their composure and kept it close. Travis Trice and Branden Dawson combined for 18 points to end the first half and cut the lead down to eight by halftime. In the second half, they came out with a stifling defensive effort and were able to take the lead with 12 minutes to go. For a team that has dropped games to lesser teams at home this season, MSU showed really composure as they found a way to win.
Maryland is capable of losing closes games
Prior to today, Maryland had gone the whole season without losing a game that was decided by six points or less. This has somewhat infamously put them at the top of the KenPom luck rankings. Mark Turgeon has even commented, albeit with a far bit of snark, on this ranking. We can now say the Terps are 10-1 in "close" games, and they didn't lose this one just because of bad luck, they made MSU earn this one.
Both of these teams could be dangerous in the NCAA Tournament
The depth of both of these teams is key for making a run in March. Having guys like Dez Wells, Melo Trimble, and Denzel Valentine you can call on in big moments is key to making a run in March, but that isn't the only impressive quality these teams share. They also combine solid team defense with the ability to rotate as many as 9 or even 10 guys in and out when needed. I could easily see both of these teams playing their way into the second weekend of the tourney. Expect Maryland to end up around a 3 or 4 seed and MSU could end up as high as a 4 or 5 if they beat Wisconsin tomorrow.
Travis Trice has become a true leader
As we've watched MSU make this recent run of four straight wins, one player has stood out, and that is Trice. He has scored 18 or more points in each of those victories, but it hasn't just been the scoring that has made him stand out. It has been when he scores. Trice has developed a knack for scoring when the Spartans need it most, he flat out willed this team to victory over Purdue on senior night in East Lansing. He has become the heart of this team, and this was a team that needed more heart. Michigan State is playing its best basketball right now, and I'm sure that surprises no one.
This game a the kind you expect to see in March. Sometimes a team will come out flat, but now is when you see teams and players leave it all out on the court to give themselves the best chance to win. I'm happy to see Maryland as part of the B1G and I think both they and Michigan State will represent my beloved conference well in the big dance.