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Know Your Enemy: Big Ten Tournament discussion with McLain Moberg of The Only Colors

As the Big Ten Tournament gets underway, Josh LaFond and McLain Moberg sit down and talk about storylines, what to expect and more.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

With the Big Ten Tournament getting underway I sat down with a good friend, — though he may be a Spartan — McLain Moberg from TheOnlyColors.com , the Michigan State Spartans SBNation site. Follow along with us as we discuss what to expect in the tourney, what the story lines will be, and who’ll be crowned champ when it’s all said and done.

Josh LaFond: I’m glad that we could arrange our schedules to do this, McLain, and I know you’re just as excited about this tournament as I am, especially with Michigan and Michigan State both playing such great basketball as of late. And that’s really where I want to start. From an outsider’s viewpoint, how do you feel about the way the Wolverines have been performing as of late?

McLain Moberg: Hey Josh! Nice to be talking to you about college basketball again. It’s been a great season for both Michigan and Michigan State.

The 13th ranked Wolverines have won five straight. On top of that seven out of their last eight games have resulted in wins. John Beilein has all the necessary intangibles a fan could want in a head coach and is one of the best the Big Ten has to offer. As always Beilein knows exactly what he needs to do in terms of making sure his team is ready, motivated, and coached up during the B1G and NCAA tournaments. I’m expecting another successful postseason out of him and his Wolverines.

That being said let’s swing it back to you. How do you feel about the Spartans now that the regular season is over? Where do you see them ending up?

Josh: I feel almost the same about the Wolverines as you do. Now as far as the Spartans go that’s another story my friend.

Yes, they’ve been hot as of late — well since after the Michigan game, really — but I’m not sure where it stops off for me. They certainly have a ton of talent, if not the most talented roster from top to bottom in the conference for that matter. But with the way they’ve performed in the first half of games against Northwestern, Wisconsin (most of the game) and others scares me. Do you think the trend of the Spartans late start in recent games is concerning?

McLain: Absolutely. Maybe not so much in terms of the B1G tournament because how far the Spartans go will only help to determine the type of seeding they are given. But during the NCAA tournament I would think fans may think it’s concerning. It’s a situation where one bad game (which MSU fans saw back in 2015) can result in complete and utter heartbreak.

After what fans have been able to experience this season, especially with everything that’s been going on at the university, they absolutely need this team to compete and make a deep run. As you stated MSU just might have the most talented roster in the conference and I’m willing to take that statement a bit further. The Spartans may have the most complete roster in the nation. From the top on down Michigan State is able to play any number of guys and stay competitive on the basketball court.

Now I know what you are thinking, MSU has been able to play at a high level inside the conference but will that hold up once the tournament starts? All I can say is I’m happy to have Tom Izzo right now. Per usual I have the utmost faith in him to get the job done. The type of expectations placed on this MSU team have been exponentially bigger than anyone else in the conference and rightfully so. Hanging another Final Four banner isn’t going to cut it this year. I don’t want to go as far as to say this season is “championship or bust” but it does beg the question. How will fans react if their best team in years doesn’t bring the trophy home?

Josh: I think you hit it on the head man, it almost is a championship or bust mentality from them. And like you and I talked about earlier in the year when the Maize & Blue met up with Sparty in East Lansing, this year’s MSU team reminds me SO MUCH of the 2012-13’ Michigan title game team. Those Wolverines were the most talented team fielded in years, but they struggled at so many points throughout the year to get going in games — a la Michigan State this season.

Tom Izzo and these Spartans have the talent, the coaching, and the drive to go on a huge run for the national title as the big dance gets underway in just a few weeks… and it all starts here in the Big Ten Tournament. That being said man, let’s talk about that for a second.

Who do you think wins the conference tournament?

McLain: I’m just gonna go ahead and skip forward a few games into the Big Ten tournament and say Michigan State and Michigan are going to play in the semi-finals. In my personal opinion whoever comes out of that game will end up winning the Big Ten tournament. I want to preface this prediction by saying I think this game could go either way.

We’ve already talked about how great each team has played this season, making this prediction 10x harder than I want it to be. Fans saw what the Wolverines did this year at the Breslin Center. Since then MSU has won 12 straight and Michigan has been on fire.

Above all else I think both teams are going to play at a high level for the remainder of the season and make some noise where it counts but Michigan State didn’t just win 12 straight only to lose one game before potentially playing the Wolverines for the second time this season. MSU wants another shot at Michigan before it’s all said and done. In my opinion, the Spartans are going to take full advantage of this opportunity and while it’ll be close, MSU wins it.

*As I said before I think whoever wins this game will go on to win the title*

Josh: I’m inclined to agree with you, man. As hot as the Wolverines and Spartans are right now, I just don’t really see anyone stopping them but themselves. I do see them meeting in the semi-finals as you said and the winner of that game I also think wins the whole shebang.

The Spartans will be out for blood should there be a rematch with Michigan and I am not so confident in the good guys chances in that potential game. It could go either way, especially with how Coach Beilein has his squad playing. But despite that, — for now anyway — I have Michigan losing a VERY close game with Michigan State in the semi-finals and the Spartans winning the Big Ten Tournament, completing what not many teams in the Big Ten history have done… win the regular season title outright, and win the tournament.

I don’t know about you, McLain, but I’m excited as all get out to see how this postseason winds up and for both of our teams for that matter.

McLain: Oh I’m extremely excited. There’s nothing quite like college basketball season where one game can make or break you. The excitement, energy, and passion is exactly what keeps myself and so many other fans going throughout the season and now we’re so close to March Madness, I can’t stand to wait any longer. For better or worse we’ll both be along for the ride.

Josh: As am I my man, as am I.


Special thanks to McLain Moberg for taking the time out of his schedule to have his discussion with me. For more of McLain’s work as well as more detailed analysis of Michigan State Spartan athletics, head on over to TheOnlyColors.com.