This isn't about the season. If it was, it wouldn't do the game justice. The season, while naturally up-and-down given the extreme youth, was my favorite season of all time. It was so much fun to watch this team grow, from a team that looked UMKC's equal in its first half to Big 12 Champions. But this isn't about that. Last night in Indianapolis wasn't about that. This game recap is just that: a recap of last night's game, a game we should have won, no questions asked.
It's about blown chances. Blown opportunities. Lack of execution. Mental errors. All of those nasty bugs that come out and bite you in March, costing you months upon months of hard work. It sucks. But, to every team but one, it happens. We weren't going to be that one, special team at the end of it all. We all knew that, at some point, it was going to end.
But why did it have to end like that? With a late 5-point lead quickly turned into a 3-point deficit. I recorded the game, with the mindset to rewatch the game win-or-lose. If we won, it'd get me super-duper pumped for the Louisville game. If we lost, it would give me some closure to my favorite season of all time. As soon as the final buzzer sounded, I immediately deleted it. It was hard enough to take once.
When Tyrel Reed nailed that three from the corner, I thought we had won. I was never really nervous, before that, sticking true to my "anything extra is gravy" mantra. But as soon as he hit that three, I believed we were going to win. We had been searching for what had seemed like decades for someone, anyone, to make a big, clutch shot to give us the advantage. When it happened, I thought we were money. But after that, we regressed. We scored 6 points those final 4:58; four by Sherron and those two, late free throws by Tyshawn.
And that was what cost us the game. When it mattered most, the experienced Michigan State team knew what to do late in the game against the 10th youngest team in the country. That's what makes it all so difficult. We had this game won, and we just let it slip away.
That's what makes it frustrating. Not the fact that it ended, but the way it ended.
Player recaps after the jump...
- MVP? Fittingly, it was easily our season's MVP: Sherron Collins. And, in an intriguing case of irony, he didn't take over enough. All season long, the hot topic of Kansas basketball was Sherron Collins and his shot selection. And, for much of the season, the media and the fans thought he just shot way too much. I'll be honest, I did too. It's tough to blame him for any single loss, but that UMass game...damn. We started to win when Sherron began to develop a trust with the other 4 players on the floor at any given time, lowering his shot tally into the teens. But in the end, when we needed it most, Sherron was 'on'. 9-13 is ridiculously efficient, particularly when the entire D is keying on you as the key. His first shot of the game went in-and-out three times, before finally rolling out. He continued to dish off to his teammates, though, continued to find the open guy and give them their chance to shine. If his teammates make those shots, we're playing Louisville tomorrow and Sherron is the ultimate hero. Stories are written about Sherron's unselfishness, to pass off the moment to his teammates. For much of the game, Sherron was damn near perfect. Sure, the free throw miss hurts. But our chances to win the game were highly unlikely, at that point. No need to focus on that one little blip. Sherron has carried us all season long. Carried us. He is a true champion. Please, Sherron, please come back. Enter into another realm of Kansas Basketball history.
- If there was ever a game that NBA scouts need to watch on Cole Aldrich, Friday night was it. At least, if you want Cole to come back for another year. Cole was severely outplayed by Goran Suton. And yes, I realize that Suton is a senior. But from all indications, he doesn't have nearly the potential of Aldrich, and figures to be sent over to Europe for his pro prospects. Really, it was one of those games where Aldrich should have been able to use his superior athleticism to score some points. It got to the point, though, where I was screaming at the TV to not give it to him on the low post. Every time it was, it ended in a turnover. He scored 17 points, sure, but I would bet that every single point was either scored at the free throw line or on putbacks and offensive rebounds. And don't get me wrong, he's an incredible rebounder. One of the best in the country. He is also quite amazing on D, particularly at blocking shots without committing fouls. But he has a ridiculous amount of work to do with the ball in his hands. Ridiculous. And while he'll get drafted based of of potential, he isn't likely to develop enough to garner a huge second contract, where you make the real money. Wait a year, learn how to pass out of a double-team and add on 1, 2 or 18 post moves to the repetoire and be a Top 5 pick next year.
- Besides those two, only one real player played well: Brady Morningstar. His jump shot was off, way off, and he even airballed the first one. It wasn't pretty. But besides that, he was excellent. Awesome. Fantastic. Nearly perfect D on Raymar Morgan. Even had a pair of freakin' dunks, man. Did a fine job of moving the ball late. We could have really used a timely three from him at one point, but he still has time to become a better shooter. That's what he needs to work on this offseason. If he would have nailed just a three or two, we win and he could have been co-MVP with Sherron.
- After that, it was all blech. I'll go Tyrel Reed as the next-best, simply because his D was nearly as outstanding as Brady's. He was on the floor diving after loose ball after loose ball, clearly giving it his all. And like I said, I thought Relly Ice had showed up when we needed it the most and drilled a three to send us to victory. Oh, that's what hurts the most. The moment that shot went through, I thought we won. Oh, I thought we won. Still, though, that shot was huge. He wasn't great, and he needs to keep on getting better on D. I bet he sees some minutes next year. He's getting better and better.
Tyshawn Taylor had an extremely freshman-ish performance. Tough to be too hard on the guy, and he did show up when it mattered most and drilled two free throws. He's still too much of a turnover machine, though, and his shot needs to get way better. Still, dude has so much potential it's scary. Positives outweigh the negatives, for sure.
- Oh, and I forgot. Markieff Morris? Excellent. Took two of the worst shots of the season, with his two threes, but still. Everything else was awesome. The only player not named Cole Aldrich who showed up on the glass. Played outstanding defense, for the most part. He doesn't have nearly the offensive repertoire of his brother, and that needs to change for him to see major minutes. Plus, when he gets open looks, he misses nearly all of them. That needs to change. But he has turned into an awesome defender and rebounder. Against the best rebounding team in the entire freakin' country, he showed up and picked up 7 boards. That's impressive. He'll keep on gettin' better.
- The other two forwards, though, yikes. I still love Marcus Morris to death, but he had a pretty awful NCAA Tournament. He's quite good with the moves, but he couldn't quite get any of them to fall. And he's not as impressive as his twin on D or on the glass. Just like his brother, plenty of room to improve. I'm giddy to see just how much they can improve.
- And, finally, Mario Little. Hopefully he's a better wing than low-post player, because he's resorted to just flashes shown. A solid defender, but not as good as he probably needs to be. I still love him, and I bet he could see some plenty of playing time next year at the 3 (maybe?), but he will never be more than a role player. And he will need to be more consistent with his shot to see too many minutes.
OK. That pretty much does it for Michigan State-specific recapping.
We're not done talking about the game, or anything, because we'll have plenty of season recap stuff and stuff coming out over the next week-or-so. And that will involve plenty of talk about this game just the same as others.
But that's it. No more disappointment over this loss, and how it happened, and all of that stuff. No more bitterness. The season was a success.
Let's just focus on that, now, huh?