What is Dispatches From Blogfrica? Pretty simple: I ask questions of an opposing team's blogger, they answer. A truly revolutionary idea, no? Next up: Friend of the Pants Pete Rossman from SBN's excellent Michigan State blog, The Only Colors.
1) I hate to see any player suffer a serious injury this late in the season, so it was sad to see Branden Dawsen go down to a torn ACL last weekend. How big of a loss will he be for Michigan State? How will you guys replace him?
There's no doubt that MSU's Final Four hopes took a big hit with Dawson's injury. On offense he was one of the most dynamic offensive rebounders I've seen at MSU in a decade, and he was beginning to learn how to play man-to-man defense in the Big Ten; that's where the biggest impact will be felt. He will most likely be replaced by two players named Brandon and Brandan*: Wood and Kearney, respectively. Wood's a 5th year senior transfer from Valparaiso who's been a bit erratic in Big Ten play, but when he's on he's a great scorer inside and out. Kearney's a freshman but he's 6'6" and has a very good defensive presence and wingspan to go with a three-point shot. If there's a silver lining to Dawson's injury, it's that this version of MSU may play better against zone defenses with improved outside shooting, as that was Dawson's main liability.
* I think MSU should be assessed a 10-point penalty for having THREE players named "Brandon" who all spell it differently. -- Ross
2) Michigan State was on a scorched earth tour of the Big Ten for much of the season, but you kind of tripped at the finish line with back-to-back losses to Ohio State and Indiana. Were those just bad days at the office or did Indiana and Ohio State exploit some weaknesses in the Spartan gameplan? Is there anything Iowa can do to duplicate what Indiana and Ohio State did in those games?
3) Was Draymond Green possessed by the spirit of King Leonidas this offseason? Seriously, what the hell has gotten into him this year? He's been a good player for a few years now but he took the leap to superstar player this year. Does he run around East Lansing screaming "THIS! IS! SPARTA!" and kicking sleazy Persian messengers into open manholes? Although that might just be my imagination.
Language Ross -- they're called sewers. The biggest visible improvement in Green's play has been his three-point shooting. He's improved his range bit by bit from his freshman year when he couldn't hit a three to save the Moon to the 40+% three-point shooter he is today. The biggest intangible difference is that this truly is Green's team to lead now. Last year was a horrendous season in terms of chemistry. Two players were booted, Kalin Lucas, for all his strengths, wasn't a demonstrative leader, and I think Green was conflicted between following the seniors and wanting to lead his way (I have zero proof of this, of course). This year he's a coach on the floor -- he suggested to Izzo the team should have a light practice before their upset of OSU, he knows where everyone should be on offense and defense, and could very well be the physical manifestation of love in this and any other universes.
4) When I was at the "7 got 6" football game** in East Lansing a few years ago, I couldn't help but notice that the in-game presentation at Spartan Stadium had co-opted quite a few things from 300. Have they done anything similar with the new Spartacus show? Does the P.A. guy exclaim "JUPITER'S COCK!" whenever Ed Hightower (or some other similarly inept B1G official) makes a bad call? Because I think that would be an excellent idea.
** You guys probably have a different name for that game, don't you? Nor do you remember it as fondly as me.
5) Are any of your players frightened of losing their immortal souls to Aaron White? He is a ginger, after all. I would understand if they felt the need to sit tomorrow's game out. I wouldn't judge them harshly at all.
Oh, MSU's been long aware of the ginger curse long since Drew Naymick devoured Paul Davis's soul back in '05 (watch the episode of Millionaire Matchmaker Davis was on if you disagree). That's why the Spartans have a ginger of their own on the roster, shooting guard Russell Byrd. He hasn't played much in his first two seasons due to a nagging foot injury, but since it says in the Bible (2 Corinthians, I think?) that having a ginger of your own counteracts an enemy ginger, I feel confident MSU's souls are safe.
6) Finally, prediction time -- who ya got?
Obviously MSU won't win by 34 again. The problem here for the Hawkeyes is that both these teams like to play fast, and MSU has the better personnel to do so right now, even with Dawson out (side note -- Dawson played 21 minutes and had 6 points and 4 boards in the last matchup -- I don't think his absence will be fatal). The game's close for 30 minutes, but eventually Michigan State pulls away and wins by...*rolls 20-sided die* *slays orc* by 8.
BONUS! I also answered some of Pete's questions, which you can read here.
Thanks for being a good sport, Pete. Be sure to check out Pete and the rest of the TOC gang over at The Only Colors. You can also follow Pete on the Twitters here. The Iowa-Michigan State game is in Indianapolis, IN on Friday, March 9th at 11:00am CT, with television coverage from ESPN.