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Fran-Graphs, Michigan State


[Video still credit: ESPN]

This will be quick, partly because the game was pretty hideous but mostly because I wanted to comment immediately on the hilarious back-and-forth between Fran and referee Ted Valentine. If you didn't catch it, Iowa was called for a touch foul on defense, then a very iffy moving screen on offense, which moved Fran McCaffery to yell something that looked like "what ducking hooving spleen?" (my lip-reading may be a bit rusty). Valentine hit McCaffery with a tech and then the veteran referee stood on the opposite sideline in the buffalo stance seen above. Fran then proceeded to mimic Valentine's gestures perfectly for a good 30 seconds. Tremendous.

The half-time analysts at ESPN, Joe Lunardi and Jay Williams, seemed to get a kick out of Fran's antics, but noted that "referees have the memories of elephants," so this may come back to bite Iowa sometime in the future. Still, I love it. If there isn't room for a little humor and mime-work in college basketball, I don't know if I want to be a fan.

Oh, as for the rest of the game. Wow, that was painful. You could kind of tell it wasn't going to be Iowa's day when the Hawks came out on fire, made nine of their first 16 shots (including three McCabe threes) ... and were tied 22-22. If Iowa couldn't get a lead on Michigan State when they were playing out of their minds, there was little chance they could win the game when their shooting came back to earth.

Michigan State is a team with NBA talent at multiple positions, and Iowa, for all their minor virtues, can't match that for very long. Draymond Green had his usual versatile game, going for 21 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 blocks (in just 24 minutes!), but equally important were the Spartans twin towers, Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix, who absolutely abused Iowa inside. It didn't hurt that Michigan State was draining jump shots in the first half as well. Or that Brandon Wood did a stellar job hounding Matt Gatens on the perimeter. Michigan State is a very deep and versatile team with an excellent coach*, and should be a tough out in the tourney, even without Branden Dawson.

* Izzo is doing a Dove "Comfortable in Your Own Skin" ad now, and I have to say that he doesn't make the most convincing skin-care pitchman, for two reasons: a) he looks like a gnarled gargoyle and b) he never looks comfortable in his own skin.

As for Iowa, it was a rough final game for Gatens (1-6 FG, 10 points), but there is still the CBI (most likely) to look forward to, and the game did give us a few glimpses of hope: Josh Oglesby went off for 20 points in garbage time, and Gabe Olaseni played a bit and looked like a decent defender (although still lost on offense). And of course we got to see McCaffery as Pagliacci, which is a rare treat.