West Region: No. 2 Michigan State (28-6) vs. No. 3 Kansas (27-7)
When: Thursday, 9:37 p.m., EDT
Where: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana
MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS
1) START THE CLOCK! I would like to thank Pete for reminding me about one of the darkest moments in MSU basketball history. (See below.) Michigan State used to have a troubled history with the Sweet 16, getting robbed twice in third round appearances in 1986 and 1990, but Tom Izzo has managed to erase most of those demons since taking over for Jud Heathcote. The Spartans are 5-2 in regional semifinals under Izzo, with both losses coming against No. 1 seeds. Yes, they probably should have won both of those earlier games despite the tragic injustices perpetrated against them, but try explaining that to Scott Skiles.
2) Case closed Michigan State is 5-0 all-time in NCAA Tournament games in Indianapolis and 7-0 as a No. 2 seed. It's like they don't even need to play the game. (Seriously, if Kansas wants to forfeit, that's cool with me.)
3) Half Right Like they did against Kansas in January, the Spartans have a habit of shutting down opposing offenses for long stretches of time. It's a trait that is reminiscent of the 2000 championship team, which was one of the best defensive and rebounding teams ever seen. However, State also has a less attractive habit of forgetting to score their own points during those stretches. For example: in their second-round game against USC, the Trojans tied the score at 67 with 4:36 left, yet scored no more field goals the rest of the game. Over the same period, Michigan State scored two and the game was still in doubt with under a minute to go. Yes, defense wins championships, but it helps to throw a few points in there too.
1) The Beast From Bloomington With 13 points, 20 rebounds, and 10 blocks, Cole Aldrich recorded the first official triple-double in Kansas Jayhawks history last Sunday against against the Dayton Flyers. Why the official disclaimer? The NCAA didn't record blocks or steals until 1986. I have no idea how the hell that's even possible, but when it comes to the NCAA there's nothing they can't screw up, even stats. If we ignore the official caveat, one must go back to 1957 for the last Kansas triple-double, which of course was posted by Wilt Chamberlain during Christmas Break '57 when he "acquainted himself with" 14 redheads, 12 blondes, and 11 brunettes in the course of a single Saturday night. Back then, of course, "acquainting oneself with" a young woman was a euphemism for anal sex.
2) This time it's personal It's only been a little over two months since KU met Michigan State in the regular season (the results of which shan't be discussed here), but it's been slightly longer since the two basketball powerhouses have met in the NCAA Tournament. In 1986, the Jayhawks met the Spartans in a Southeast Regional semifinal matchup at Kansas City's godforsaken Kemper Arena. Some shot clock irregularities gave the Jayhawks an extra 10-15 seconds of game time, which they used to complete their comeback from a second-half deficit and send the game into overtime, which they then of course won. Michigan State fans were livid about the supposed home cooking, and it's one of those minor footnotes in history that fans on the internet still get all CAPS LOCK-y about still today while conveniently ignoring the fact that Michigan State blew a few chances in the waning moments of the second half to seal a victory.
3) Your seats, show them to me. The greatest KU basketball story ever told isn't one you'll find in the pages of Inside Sports or the Twitter feed of Rick Rielly. No, the greatest KU basketball story ever told is the one that popped up last year on an anonymous, now-dormant blog. Both Kansas fans and opposing fans have latched onto it with glee, and retell it with relish. Is it true? Who knows? Who cares? Ladies and gentlemen, the AIN'T NO SEATS story:
Someone from my dorm last year had a class with Sherron Collins and a few other basketball players (Darrell Arthur, Brady Morningstar, maybe someone else) and they always sit next to each other and cheat on tests and such. Sherron enters class on a test day and immediately goes and sits right next to the other players, and of course you're supposed to have a seat between you and the closest person. The teacher tells Sherron to sit in the front of the class, where there are five or six completely empty rows. Sherron doesn't even look up and just yells 'AIN'T NO SEATS' and proceeds to continue in his studious ways and miraculously gets an A on the test while sitting next to the basketball players.
Remember — "Most of us are going pro in something other than sports."