What Michigan State must do to achieve Big Ten Tournament success


Shay Colley/Photo: Joe Dandron

Sam Britten, Women's Basketball Beat Reporter

Michigan State has finally entered postseason play, opening the Big Ten Tournament today. The Spartans have gone from being one of the top teams in the Big Ten to a team that looks fatigued and tired. After a bland 57-48 win over Penn State without the Nittany Lions’ leading scorer in Teniya Page, Michigan State doesn’t look like the same team that brought the fire against Oregon. Michigan State played excellent defense against the Lions, allowing the team to shoot just 30.5 percent from the field.

While a good defensive effort is always impressive, beating a team that’s at the bottom of the Big Ten by just nine points isn’t a good look for a squad that once was primed to take the Big Ten. After this win, the Spartans traveled to Minnesota and got stomped on by the Gophers, losing by a score of 81-63.

If the Spartans want to have a chance at winning a game or two in the tournament, here’s what they need to do:


The Spartan defense has been lackluster as of late, allowing opponents to shoot above 40 percent from the field in five of their last six games. Even if two of these games resulted in wins, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Ohio State are all teams that Michigan State shouldn’t have any trouble with. Northwestern, Michigan State’s first-round opponent, isn’t a bad shooting team, averaging 40.3 percent from the field. If Michigan State is going to be effective moving forward, it needs to be locked in on defense at all times.

Win outside of the Breslin

The Spartans defended their home court with pride, finishing with an impressive 15-1 home record, the best regular season home record since the 2010-11 season, but that doesn’t improve the abysmal 1-7 road conference record. No one seems to have a response to this recurring issue the Spartans have had all season. It’s no secret that home teams have an advantage in every game, but embarrassing 10+ point losses to Nebraska and Wisconsin, two teams under .500 in the regular season, is unacceptable.

The Spartans have been guaranteed a first-round bye after their win over Penn State, but they’ll have to play Northwestern, the same team that exposed Michigan State’s struggles outside of the Breslin. If the Spartans can play the same way they do at home in these next games, they’ll make a good case to move up a few spots in the bracket.

Play with energy

Having a first-round bye certainly helped this team rest up and prepare for Northwestern. The Spartans looked fatigued when they played Penn State. Suzy Merchant feels that the bench is something that might give them an edge over other teams in the Big Ten Tournament. Tory Ozment, Kayla Belles, Mardrekia Cook, Sidney Cooks (if Victoria Gaines is starting) and Claire Hendrickson are all bench players that can provide quality minutes and give the starters a rest.

While having Jenna Allen or Shay Colley might be more reliable, they need rest. When considering the amount of injuries that this team has struggled with over the past few seasons, having bench players get more minutes might be better for the team going forward. Players like Clouden, Allen and Colley are obviously key players, but they need rest and help.

Michigan State has an opportunity to improve its resume heading into March Madness. Winning one or two games in the conference tournament can increase the Spartans’ seeding by a good amount. They have shocked some teams and have shown at times that, when they are good, they are great. A few wins before the NCAA Tournament might be just what they need to boost their confidence.