On Monday, Michigan State had some hard realities they had to face.
First off, they'd just lost to a Illinois team (17-12, 6-10 Big Ten) that had only won half as many games as they had lost in the Big Ten. Sure, the Fighting Illini were streaking, but the Spartans (22-7, 11-5) barely put up a fight in the 53-46 loss at home in the Breslin Center.
Secondly, they were finally back to full-force. All these many weeks past where Michigan State had begun a losing streak, falling in six of their last ten games, most analysts and fans could be heard saying, "just wait until they're back at full force" or "you'll see when they get everyone playing again how talented they are."
Well, the Spartans were playing with a full team once again for the first time in months, including the return of Branden Dawson, who'd broke his hand over a month ago, and in many respects, MSU looked worse than they ever have. Even head coach Tom Izzo could barely get above a whisper when he talked to reporters about his team's poor performance against the Illini.
"I thought our energy level was at an all-time worst," Izzo said. "They defended very well, which they've been doing. They turned us over a lot and turned those turnovers into touchdowns."
Izzo's dejection was all too noticeable. And now, the all too public downfall of Michigan State is becoming all too apparent. The team thought the return of some missing superstars would be the boost that they needed. Instead, they need something far different.
“I’m gonna get a whole year full of things thrown at me,” Izzo said on Monday of the public reaction he fully expects after his team's poor couple of weeks. “So now, it’ll be fun now. Because really, I don’t care about anybody but my team right now. And I like it that way. I really do.”
Even the players are becoming aware of their dire situation. Gary Harris, despite putting up 19 points against Illinois, knows hard hard things can get behind the scenes when a team can't find success on the court.
“They don’t (the fans) have to deal with the stuff we’ve got to deal with in the locker room,” Harris said. “I mean, it’s easy to say stuff like that on a message board. It’s not easy to go out there and play a game, win games in the Big Ten. So I mean, the message to them is, it’s kind of hard to talk about somebody when you’re not in their shoes.
“So as a team, we’ve got a mentality, we don’t really listen to that stuff anymore. Mostly, everybody’s off social media, because you know they’re gonna kill us. That’s what they do. They love you when you’re doing good, hate you when you’re down.”
You can follow MSU writer, Michael Ferro, at twitter.com/MichaelFerro.