In my review of a Michigan game a few days ago, I went over just how I became a Michigan State fan. This left me in a bit of a situation on Monday night, when I got tickets for Missouri-Kansas City's visit to MSU -- I've been a Spartan fan my whole life, but had never actually been to the Breslin Center. So I decided that I would enjoy the experience of going to Breslin, and everything MSU related, until the ball was tipped. I would then renounce my fanship for the next 2 hours and be on the side of the visiting Kangaroos.
This quandary is nothing new to many of you fellow 800GPers. Ian McCormick went over all of this in an earlier review at a South Carolina game. I know the vast advantages Michigan State has over all teams below the Red Line, and I can admit I was pretty mad when Sparty lost to Butler 2 years ago in the Final Four. It would be hard not to root for the Spartans, but in the grand scheme of things the game means very little to them, but a great deal to a team like UMKC. In Craig Caswell's recent review he went over how a few wins Bowling Green had over MSU well over 10 years ago were some of the biggest in the history of the program. A win for the Roos would be a monumental event and a huge confidence boost heading into conference play.
As for the Spartans, they stand a good chance of making the tournament regardless of what happens. Look no further than last year when they had a poor overall season yet were still selected comfortably into the Big Dance. Their main goal every year is to make the Final Four and win a championship.
I honestly thought UMKC would have a decent chance of staying with Michigan State for much of the game. While the Roos had a tough start of the season, getting Black Lined in an exhibition against Benedictine and once again in the season open against NW Missouri St, they had turned things around and won 6 of their last 7. MSU is also notorious for letting teams stay in games in their non-conference slate. They already had done so this year with Central Connecticut and Bowling Green.
The first thing I heard when walking up to the Breslin Center was the familiar bell you usually hear around Christmastime, asking for donations in front of malls or grocery stores. I was surprised to see the bell-ringer was Sparty, the MSU mascot, ringing the bell in front of the Magic Johnson statue asking for donations to send him to nationals. (MSU spends enough money, can't they fork over a few hundred more to get him there?)
I met up with my friend Todd at the front entrance. He's a friend back from Myrtle Beach, with whom I normally watch all things MSU or Detroit sports-related back home, and who was also up north visiting family. We were able to get sweet deal on StubHub, but it did leave us in the upper reaches of the arena.
There was a nice Military Appreciation Night tribute before the game and at halftime, and it led to the big flag before the national anthem.
The time finally came for me to switch to the Roos as the game tipped off. It took all of 4 seconds for MSU to win the tip and get a layup. OK, things were off to a rough beginning, but things would hopefully get better... they didn't. Michigan St started the game on 16-2 run, to the delight of a home crowd that was missing the Izzone on the holiday break -- MSU sold the student section seats to the general public and filled all of them.
UMKC finally did start scoring a bit as the first half got going, but this was turning into a classic guarantee game. I figured that Reggie Chamberlain, the Roos' leading scorer, would have to have a strong game to keep up with MSU, but he was held scoreless in the 1st and UMKC trailed by 20 going into the half.
I really didn't have much to cheer about for UMKC starting the second half, either. Sparty ran out with a huge 28-6 run to begin the half. It wasn't a pretty scene for the Roos, as they didn't show any spark until the final 3 minutes, highlighted with 2 sweet dunks by Trinity Hall. I couldn't help but smile when all of this caused Tom Izzo to call timeout to chew out his younger players while they were up 40. At least this one little stretch of the game for UMKC got under his skin.
MSU came away with a easy win and my one-night experiment didn't work out so well for the Roos. I don't think I could ever give up cheering for my team above the Red Line on a permanent basis. It's been way too long for me to turn back now, but part of me will always be rooting for the little guy.
at MICHIGAN STATE 89, MISSOURI-KANSAS CITY 54 12/19/2011
MISSOURI-KANSAS CITY 7-6 (1-1) -- D. Barnes 8-16 4-4 22; T. Staton 1-6 1-2 4; N. Rogers 2-5 0-1 4; R. Chamberlain 1-8 0-0 2; T. Hall 5-10 5-8 16; D. Dibble 2-7 0-0 4; K. Korver 4-7 0-0 11; E. Tyler 1-3 1-2 4; J. Gholston 0-1 1-2 1; F. Chatmon 1-3 0-0 2; B. Reid 2-2 0-0 4; T. Mason 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 20-53 8-15 54. MICHIGAN STATE 10-2 (0-0) -- D. Green 4-9 2-5 10; K. Appling 3-6 1-1 7; B. Wood 6-6 0-0 16; B. Dawson 8-12 0-0 16; A. Payne 3-3 5-8 11; T. Trice 3-5 0-0 8; A. Thornton 0-1 0-0 0; D. Nix 3-3 0-0 6; A. Gauna 3-5 2-6 8; R. Byrd 1-4 0-0 3; B. Kearney 0-1 0-0 0; A. Ianni 0-0 1-2 1; D. Chapman 0-1 0-0 0; J. Sweeny 0-0 0-0 0; K. Wetzel 1-1 0-0 3; C. Wollenman 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 35-57 11-22 89.
Three-point goals: UMKC 6-21 (D. Dibble 0-1; R. Chamberlain 0-5; T. Staton 1-2; N. Rogers 0-1; M. Gholston 0-1; K. Korver 3-6; T. Hall 1-3; E. Tyler 1-2), MSU 8-14 (B. Wood 4-4; D. Green 0-2; R. Byrd 1-3; B. Kearney 0-1; T. Trice 2-3; K. Wetzel 1-1); Rebounds: UMKC 25 (N. Rogers 6), MSU 32 (D. Green 11); Assists: UMKC 12 (N. Rogers 3), MSU 25 (K. Appling 8); Total Fouls -- UMKC 18, MSU 16; Fouled Out: UMKC-B. Reid; MSU-None.