March 15, 2009
VIDEO: Seniors feel sense of urgency in final dance
EAST LANSING - Michigan State senior Travis Walton isn't taking Robert Morris any of Michigan State's potential opponents after the first round of the NCAA tournament lightly. That is because the third-year Spartan captain knows that the next Michigan State loss will be his last.
As such, Walton and Michigan State's four seniors have a heightened sense of urgency. They don't want to see the 2008-2009 season end before they earn a trip to the Final Four in Detroit.
"If you lose this game you go home," said Walton. "For the four seniors, we would be done with college basketball forever and for the younger players, they have to go into the summer knowing they didn't play well."
Walton says he knows little about Robert Morris other than they won their conference tournament and are playing well at the right time to do so. But Walton, a film-room junkie, plans on learning everything he can about Michigan State's first-round opponent.
Walton is also going to do everything in his power to help his team correct some of their deficiencies and tighten up the areas that need work during the next three days of practice. Among the focal points for Walton and his team will be correcting some recent shooting woes.
"You have to do everything you wanted to do the whole year in four or five days," said Walton. "That means tonight you have to do some ballhandling, get some shots up and do all of those things because it is almost over and you can't just sit there and say, 'I wish I had done this, I wish I had done that.'"
Michigan State made just 27-of-71 shots taken against Ohio State in the Big Ten semifinal against Ohio State. The Spartans need to shoot better than that if they want to make it out of the first weekend. But they also need to play better defense.
"I think (losing in the Big Ten tournament) shows that you need to do both ends of the court," said Walton. "You know, If you are not playing good offense, you need to play good defense. I think at Ohio State we didn't do either one very good. We have to get back to our defensive schemes and playing good defense and get back in the gym and get some shots up in the next three or four days and have our offense rolling."
Like Walton, Suton also feels a sense of urgency heading into his final NCAA tournament appearance. As a junior, Suton may have played better than any other Spartan in the big dance. He would like to have a similar showing this March.
"For every senior, it is now or never," said Suton, "especially when you are in the situation that we are. Some of these guys have one, two or three more years after this. With us it is our last chance to make a run."
Suton says playing against teams he hasn't played before motivates him and gets his competitive juices going.
"I think sometimes we get bored playing against Big Ten teams," said Suton. "You just keep repeating playing teams two or three times a year. Now I think is where the fun begins. You travel and you might never know who you play against until that day. I think having a new challenge is a fun thing."
Michigan State is not playing in an exotic location. The Spartans have already played one game in Minneapolis this season. But new opponents will await Michigan State in the Twin Cities.
"I think we are in good shape as far as the seeding and the place we are playing," said Suton. "We could go from Minneapolis to Indianapolis to Detroit. That would be awesome, but I don't think we can look ahead of us and have to concentrate on our first two games."
Unlike most of his teammates, Suton did not struggle with his offense against Ohio State. When he got touches, Suton scored against the Buckeyes. That bodes well for the Spartans heading into NCAA tournament play.
"I am feeling more comfortable every game and comfortable going into the tournament," said Suton, who needs just eight more points to reach the 1,000 point plateau in his Spartan career. "I think I started off slow (against Ohio State) and then I picked it up. Maybe we should have gotten it inside a little bit more."
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