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Monthly Archives: December 2010
by Baker Cronin
This coming Saturday Oakland will host the Michigan State Spartans at the Palace of Auburn Hills. One might assume that the reason for playing at the Palace instead of the O’Rena is the larger seating capacity and ticket sales to draw in the Big Ten school. The real reason behind the game not being played at the O’Rena is that Spartan coach Tom Izzo is deathly afraid of bears.
The head coach made it clear that under no circumstance would he step foot inside a building with that many images of bears. Even with the game played at the Palace, Izzo has filed a restraining order against OU mascots Grizz and Clawz in hopes of avoiding bear-related contact altogether.
Tom Izzo was born and raised in Iron Mountain in the Upper Peninsula. He had always feared the bears living there, but his phobia took a turn for the worse when his parents went on a cruise and the only babysitters available for young Tom due to the UP’s sparse population were a family of Northern Black Bears.
During those three weeks, Tom was forced to sleep surrounded by Teddy Bears and only allowed him to watch Little Bear, Rupert, The Care Bears, and Winnie the Pooh on the television. The Bears would read him “The Berenstain Bears” and a modified version of “Goldilocks” every night.
Rather than help him overcome his fear, this experience only worsened Izzo’s already fragile condition.
Things have progressed to the point where Coach Izzo is even wary about spending time around Junior forward Draymond Green, who is nicknamed “Dancing Bear.” Izzo contemplated having Green not make the trip with the team despite his 19 point 12 rebound effort against Oakland last year so as to not “bear overload.” As it is, Izzo has had his assistant coaches inform Green than when he is not on the floor, he is to sit on the opposite end of the Spartan bench.
Regardless of the outcome of Saturday’s game, Izzo vows to walk in with his head held high and try not to curl up into the fetal position or run away screaming like a girl at first sight of Oakland’s logo.
Related news: Izzo threatens to sever friendship with lifelong friend Steve Mariucci over rumors that he is currently in communication with the Chicago Bears.
Seeking to avoid backlash from its often disparate player punishment procedures, the Michigan State basketball program has formally institutionalized new standards of consequences. For any players with off-court legal issues, the Spartans will allow players to be suspended for a maximum of three games. The new rule will give the school maximum flexibility to ensure it still has the best possible basketball product on the court in meaningful games.
In the event that the offense is prior to the practice season, one of those games can count as Midnight Madness. Another can count as an exhibition game. Therefore, a player with legal issues will only have to miss one meaningless non-conference game. If the offense occurs during the season, MSU law dictates that the suspension must first go into effect for any games against teams with an RPI measure of over 150. If a player gets in trouble during Big Ten play, the new rule allows the Spartans to hold off on the suspension until the next season. An MSU official was glad to cofidy the standards.
“We anticipate this move will strengthen our basketball product. It adds objectivity to often subjective situations, and shows our players that even when trouble comes calling, winning basketball games is the most important thing for us. More than anything, we want our players to be prepared for the NBA job market when they leave here, and by doing this we are giving them a sense of entitlement, by far one of the most important soft skills for future professionals.”
The precedent for such a rule was set earlier this year when Korie Lucious was suspended for one exhibition game and one regular season game after being arrested for drunk driving while underage. The idea to suspend him for these two games came as a result of wanting to send a message to the player while ensuring that the team would still have adequate manpower to win games.
The policy was a hit with Michigan State fans, though those without green and white lenses were more skeptical of the move. The school hopes that the new rule will prove that the handling of the Lucious situation will be no different in the future. Players will all be treated the same, and that is as Gods.
With punishment standards now in place, the public can expect several other schools to follow. Baylor coach Scott Drew was excited when he heard the news.
“Well we went through this with LaceDarius [Dunn] this off-season. We weren’t sure how to handle it because he’s our All-American player, yet we didn’t want the public to think we were being pushovers just for him. By making this official, we can show that all players will be treated equally as Gods. Now folks can’t say that we only suspended Lace for three games because he was our most important player since we only gave three games to the walk-on over there too!”
Clearly, major basketball programs across the nation breathed a sigh of relief today.
by: Jericho Sanders
The annual rivalry game between Oakland University and OU-East Lansing is set to return to The Palace of Auburn Hills this Saturday. The Golden Grizzlies have been rolling thus far in the season, with easy wins over mid-major programs like Marshall-Morgantown and Fort Wayne University-West Lafayette. The Rochester-based school has also posted impressive wins against BCS schools Wright State and Ohio. The Spartans of OU-EL have played a tough schedule including close losses to high-major powers like Bowling Green and Tennessee Tech. Their lone win was against a lowly North Carolina-based school known as the Elon of Durham Blue Devils.
For fans of the two schools, it’s a match-up that is as anticipated as any other in the state. Oakland University has a history of dominating its affiliate school on the basketball court, but OU-EL has improved in recent years thanks to the aggressive coaching of Tom Izzo. Izzo is something of a mid-major coaching legend in East Lansing, a role he is very comfortable with.
“A lot of my colleagues try to move up the coaching ladder, you know. After last year’s success, there were a lot of overtures coming my way, but I’m happy in East Lansing. I like being a Spartan.”
Izzo was publicly courted by a few big-time programs this summer, most notably Duquesne, Milwaukee, and Indianapolis University. But he opted to stay in East Lansing, hoping to continue to build a program from the ground up. That building process isn’t easy, particularly with perennial powerhouse Oakland University stealing the spotlight not just in the state of Michigan, but also in the nation. Oakland coach Greg Kampe stays humble despite the increased exposure.
“Well, we had a nice run last season. Wish we could have cut down the nets in Indy, but it just wasn’t meant to be. We’ll continue to work hard and take this one game at a time.”
While the new season is still young, the rivalry here dates back over five decades. It was in 1957 when Oakland University first expanded by opening up a campus in East Lansing. Since those nascent days, OU-EL has always lived in the shadow of its namesake institution. That has held up on the basketball court, too. OU-EL has never won against Oakland, though games in recent years have been close, especially when the high-major takes a trip to the Spartan’s tiny Breslin Gym. This year, however, they’ll have to try as they might in front of a packed crowd at the Golden Grizzlies’ home arena. Izzo is encouraged.
“We play these guys every year, and it’s the same result every year. But as long as we have a chance, anything can happen. We’re happy to play Oakland, it’s a fine program with a great coach. They’ve been good to us. Now we just need to steal a game from them.”
Maybe this is the year.
GAME NOTES: All-American candidate Larry Wright enters the game averaging 15 points and 8 assists per game. He’ll go head-to-head with Kailan Lucas, a guard who is shooting just 30% this season. Spartan’s power forward Draymond Green has seen his draft stock increase in recent games. A number of NBA scouts are expected to see him battle with Oakland’s Keith Benson. Benson is currently projected as the number two pick in the upcoming NBA Draft, just behind San Diego State’s Kawhi Leonard. For those seeking tickets, OU officials encourage the use of its official secondary ticket market, StubHub.com. Oakland sold out its season in May.