NCAA Elite 8 Musings and Highlights (3/29/15)

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  • The MSU Spartans joined their fellow Big Ten team, Wisconsin, in the Final Four after defeating Louisville.
  • In order to appreciate the yelling, celebration and tears of joy shared after the game (I was the one yelling and crying and Gabby was the one barking in celebration), please see “Gabby’s March Madness Bracket Analysis” blog that was posted on March 18th.
  • I will be showing my MSU and Big Ten Conference bias by only giving the MSU highlights/pivotal plays (nothing personal against Louisville).
  • The 2015 NCAA Final Four will be the 7th for MSU under Coach Izzo.
  • Tom Izzo now has 46 NCAA tournament wins and moves to 8th all-time in the record books.
  • This was MSU’s second straight Elite 8, and the 9th for Coach Izzo, and unlike the previous year that resulted in a loss to the eventual 2015 NCAA Champions, Connecticut, they worked their March magic to deliver an overtime victory.
  • Coach Izzo’s Elite 8 record now moves to 7-2.
  • Coach Izzo has 13 wins as a lower-seed tournament team (most in NCAA history).
  • MSU will play the winner of the Duke/Gonzaga game, in which Duke led 31-26 at halftime.
  • The 1st half saw a Michigan State team displaying some of their characteristics from the early months of the season and not the characteristics of the tournament team.
  • Game was tied 19-19 with a little under nine minutes remaining in the 1st half and by halftime, Louisville had a 40-32 lead over MSU.
  • During the 1st half, MSU shot 42.9% from the floor and Travis Trice led the team with 10 points (4-7), Denzel Valentine contributed 9 points and Branden Dawson had 2 points and 6 rebounds.
  • At the ten minute mark of the 2nd half Louisville was still leading MSU by 4 points.  Matt Costello finally tied up the game, 51-51, with 8:45 remaining in the 2nd half (first tie since 19-19 in the 1st half).
  • Next offensive play, Bryn Forbes made a 3-pointer to give MSU the lead 54-51 and their first lead since 7:40 in the 1st half when MSU led 24-22.
  • During a 10-0 run over three minutes, Trice hit a 3-pointer after a great pass from Valentine to give MSU a 57-51 lead with 7:45 remaining in the game.
  • Over the next five minutes MSU would maintain a three to six point lead and it was not until 1:35 remaining in the game that Louisville hit a 3-pointer to close the lead to 1 point and then with 1:13 remaining Louisville took a 64-63 lead on free-throws.
  • Marvin Clark had two pivotal plays in the last-minute, the first was a great shot to give MSU the lead 65-64 and the other was being fouled on a rebound after Louisville missed their shot to take the lead with 21 seconds remaining.  Clark missed both free-throws and Louisville set-up for the last play and was fouled with 4.9 seconds remaining.  Thankfully, Louisville only converted one of the free-throws (of course, it had to be a dramatic one that bounced up and in) and after a last second missed shot by Trice the two teams headed to overtime.
  • MSU set a school record for the 2014-15 season with this 8th overtime (3-5 record)
  • Bryn Forbes started overtime with a 3-pointer and MSU had a 68-65 lead.  He would contribute another 2 points on free-throws and Valentine would sink a basket to give MSU a 72-66 lead with two minutes remaining.
  • Louisville came back with a basket and free-throws to cut the lead to 72-70 with a minute remaining.
  • Play of the game in overtime is Branden Dawson’s put back after a Forbes 3-point miss and MSU led 74-70 with 28 seconds remaining.
  • The final two points of the game are made at the free-throw line by Travis Trice and MSU wins 76-70 in overtime.  The Spartans finished the game 15-20 from the line.
  • Another great game by Senior leader, Travis Trice – 17 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds.
  • Superb game for Bryn Forbes who hit shots at critical points and finished the game with 14 points (4-6 3pt.)
  • Strong performances by Denzel Valentine – 15 points and 7 rebounds and Branden Dawson – 9 points and 11 rebounds.
  • Fantastic Big Ten mojo contributed by the endless cheering and yelling by Gabby and I throughout the tournament.
  • The chance for a Big Ten team winning the 2015 NCAA Championship and preserving the 1976 Indian Hoosier’s record as the last perfect season now rests with MSU and Wisconsin.  The last time the Big Ten Conference had two teams in the Final Four was 2005 (MSU and Illinois).
  • Wisconsin will be playing against Kentucky in their Final Four game.  The Final Four game will be a rematch of last year, in which Kentucky won and advanced to the Championship Game where they lost to the 2014 NCAA Champions, Connecticut.  Now that I am an Aaron Rodgers fan, I believe that he is capable of bringing extra Big Ten mojo to the Badgers in cheering them on in a win over Kentucky.
  • In order for MSU to reach the Championship game, they will need to beat Duke, who just defeated Gonzaga 66-52.   Coach Izzo will have his team ready to play at the Final Four in Indianapolis, the site where the Spartans won the 2000 NCAA Championship (more Big Ten mojo).
  • Gabby and I will be preparing for a night of cheering on Saturday, April 4th when both games will be played.  For that night, we will both be cheering for Wisconsin and MSU.  When the teams make it to the National Championship, because of our brackets, we will be on opposing sides with Gabby, Aaron Rodgers and the Wisconsin fan base cheering on Wisconsin and Sparty nation, Magic Johnson and I cheering on MSU.

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