If the game the Michigan State Spartans played against the Kansas Jayhawks Tuesday night in the Georgia Dome was any indication of a sign of things to come, don’t be surprised if you see the Spartans back in Atlanta in April.
Yes, the Spartans, who some were ready to write off as average after they suffered a tough loss to the Connecticut Huskies Friday night in Germany, are good enough to play in the Final Four and perhaps even win a national championship.
They proved as much by grinding out a 67-64 win over a very good Kansas team, stepping up defensively down the stretch and getting a two clutch shots from Keith Appling, who could very well become the go-to guy for the Spartans this season.
Appling dropped in 19 points on the Jayhawks, including a clutch 3-pointer in the closing minutes to tilt the momentum in favor of the Spartans. He hit a total of three shots from beyond the arc and connected all four of his attempts from the free-throw line, displaying the nerves of steel and leadership you expect from a top player.
One thing you never do in college basketball is count out Michigan State. The Spartans are tough, they usually play smart and they get after you defensively as well as any team in the nation.
And now it appears that Appling is ready to lead the way. He is ready to take his game up another notch or two and be that player the Spartans can count on night in and night out. If Appling continues to raise his game and the Spartans continue to play their style of basketball, the game they played in the Georgia Dome Tuesday night won’t be the only time they play there this season.
The Spartans will be back on a Saturday night in early April playing for the right to advance to the national championship game.
Brian Lester is a featured Big Ten columnist and college basketball writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @BLester1993 or send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.