DETROIT- Shocking. Thats the only way to describe it. No adversity was here, all the chips were on Michigan State’s side. The talent, the venue, the fans. And they couldn't get it done. Michigan State fell in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament to 11-seeded Syracuse in their backyard.
What can we takeaway from Michigan State’s upset loss? Let’s take a look.
What We Learned:
1. Xavier Tillman provided a bright spot for what’s in Michigan State’s future.
Down the final stretch of the season and into postseason play, no player on Michigan State had grown as much as Xavier Tillman did. The freshman went from limited minutes behind inferior players and missing point-blank shots at the rim, to stealing minutes from the likes of Nick Ward and Jaren Jackson Jr.
Sunday evening, Syracuse could not keep the freshman off the glass. Tillman finished the game with 12 rebounds, nine of them coming on the offensive end of the floor. He did his part to try to keep Michigan State’s season alive.
When it was clear he couldn’t, the only thing Tillman had left for Michigan State fans is a glimpse into the future. Tillman will be a cinderblock within the Spartan program for the next three years. His size, combined with his savvy hands will make one of the best interior players in the conference within two years at the most.
His freshman season was not stellar. It couldn’t have been being stuck being Ward, Jackson Jr., Kenny Goins, Gavin Schilling, and Ben Carter for over half the year. Once Michigan State coach Tom Izzo let him free, the future potential was easily observed.
2. What more does Izzo need
Two lottery picks, the most interior depth Michigan State has had in years, and a once in a generation point guard could not get Tom Izzo his second title. It could not even get him out of the first weekend. Again. Never could we have thought that a program like Michigan State would be missing from the Sweet 16 for three continuous years. But it has happened.
And all of the blame can’t rest on Izzo’s shoulders. Nor should it. Not when Michigan State combined to shoot 26 percent from the floor, their lowest total of the season. But what Izzo can get blamed for is underachieving again. Middle Tennessee in 2015 can go down as a fluke. An upset of the caliber has never happened under Izzo other than that moment. This was no fluke. Syracuse rightfully deserved to win and move to Omaha.
Tom Izzo and Michigan State likely wasted away his last shot to get a second title. With Jackson Jr. and Bridges likely heading to the NBA, a chance like this, a roster like this, may never reside in East Lansing for a long time.
The season is over. The calender turns back to football season. And for the second time in the last three years, Michigan State fans have months of wondering on what could have been.
Another missed opportunity.