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Getting A Bit Ahead Of Things

Tieguy spotted this story which says that Michigan
State is now on a par with Duke's 80's and early 90's Final Four run.
Based
on what? Two final fours? There's no question that Michigan State has pushed
their way into the elite of college basketball.  They might make an
historic run, but they may just as easily find out a few facts of life which
aren't really pleasant, to wit:

  • being the hunted isn't easy. It means being asked "what's wrong"
    when you lose a game, and having endless press attention. It also means that
    places like Penn State and Northwestern get particularly excited when you
    come to town, not to mention cranky old guys like Bob Knight, or young
    go-getters like Alford, much less Dick Bennett, who will go after them hard
    as well. They are everyone's biggest game next year, and that wears on a
    team.
  • chemistry changes. It would change even if the exact team returned because
    people change, but in MSU's case, the "Flintstones" were guys who
    had known each other a long time.  The last title team with chemistry
    like that was Lowe-Whittenburg.  The Spartans will be very tough, but
    they cannot be the same. UConn was the latest school to find that out, but
    everyone, even Duke, ran into the same thing. In Duke's case, they had
    Laettner to bail them out of a near disaster.  Who is MSU's Laettner?
    This year it was Morrison or Peterson.  Next year, maybe
    Bell?    It's clear now that Cleaves and Morrison were
    warriors, but last season they weren't this strong.  They weren't far
    off, but they still weren't where they are as seniors. We were pulling for
    Mike Chappel to do well, but he's never shown an enormous amount of
    heart. 
  • Freshmen.  Their freshmen are very good, but they are still freshmen
    and it does matter. Duke went to the Finals with Hurley, but got creamed.
    Florida didn't do well with young guards. Moral: experience counts. And for
    all anyone know, Zach Randolph might come out after next season.

The article also suggests that Brendan Haywood is the early choice for player
of the year. Huh? Brendan had a solid year, and improved dramatically, but he
still struggled at times, and more importantly, he relies on his teammates to
get him the ball.  He hasn't exactly created a lot of his offense -
basically he gets the ball close to the basket and either dunks or has a short
jumper.  When he's been out of position he's struggled.  Ed Cota is a
masterful passer, but there's no obvious candidate to replace his particular
genius. Haywood has improved incredibly (and of course none of this is due to Bill Guthridge, it all just happened spontaneously), but next season will be a challenge in a different sense.

The writer doesn't do much to promote his expertise when he talks about
Jerome Harper's future at Cincinnati, since the Bearcats have
long since yanked their offer.