PHOENIX - Injured freshman Branden Dawson did not make the trip the West Regional with his teammates this week. Dawson was left behind at Breslin on Monday despite having packed his bags in anticipating of joining the team.
The sight of the Spartans pulling away from Breslin on Monday and leaving Dawson behind to walk to his dorm was witnessed by a small contingent of fans and media, leading to questions.
Prior to Michigan State's practice on Wednesday, Tom Izzo answered those questions.
Izzo indicated that slight problems with accountability and academic assignments were at the root of the decision to assign Dawson to stay in East Lansing this weekend.
"Ninety percent of it is nothing," Izzo said. "But he has business he has to take care of and responsibilities."
"There were papers that were due that he didn't finish, and they were due in the next couple of days. We tried to get ahold of him, and couldn't get him so I made the decision that it would be best if he stayed back and finished those.
"And doctors talked about: 'Is it best that he travel four hours on a plane with that leg?'
"It was a combination of: you've got to learn that you have responsibilities and what you have to do. I have no problem with him not finishing the paper, we were gone that whole week. But you have to get ahold of us. Number two is: He has to get his work done, and missing another four days is not going to be helpful. And number three the injury."
Izzo regrets what the team exit looked like on Monday. Dawson was actually on the bus with his luggage as the team bus moved up the ramp from the loading dock at Breslin, then got off the bus at Shaw Hall Lane.
"The only reason he got off the bus is we had packed his stuff for him, and I didn't want him walking up the big long thing (loading ramp at Breslin)," Izzo said. "So we drove him up to the top. Then there were people there, which led for you guys (media) to speculate that he robbed three banks and two stores, and he didn't do that."
Kearney Learns A Lesson
Brandan Kearney was a popular point of conversation following Michigan State's victory over Saint Louis on Sunday due to his brief emotional breakdown late in the game. Kearney became frustrated to the point of tears, partly because of problems he was having on defense. The moment was caught by CBS cameras and discussed on Internet message boards and Twitter.
"I just learned that you've got to control your emotions, especially when you get really frustrated," Kearney said from the Michigan State locker room on Wednesday. "I think it was a lot of passion within that, at the same time I was frustrated. I'm just glad to get it off my chest, and not to do it again on TV, and keep it for the locker room or behind closed doors."
The 6-foot-5, 185-pound Kearney had problems bodying up against 6-foot-5, 220-pound sophomore Dwayne Evans of Saint Louis. Evans, who is well-versed in the post-up game, was physical with Kearney in the low post, and the Billikens went straight at the matchup when Austin Thornton was out with four fouls, and with Dawson out due to his ACL injury.
Kearney also had problems, along with Brandon Wood and Travis Trice, in executing switches on Saint Louis guard Kwamain Mitchell[/db] through handoffs and stagger screens.
"After having a poor defensive outing against Saint Louis, I definitely want to get out there and redeem myself," Kearney said.
Kearney, who is one of Michigan State's top two guards off the bench, is likely to spend some time on Louisville's top scorer, wing forward Kyle Kuric.
Kuric (6-4, 195, Sr.) averages 13.0 points. He is streak shooter from the left wing, making 33 percent from long range while jacking up 216 attempts throughout the course of the season.
Kuric is not a tremendous threat off the dribble, and Louisville does not try to get him open with intricate sets of screens. He gets most of his openings off of penetrate-and-kick passes from problematic point guard Peyton Siva and in transition.
Although Kuric is one of the more prolific shooters and scorers that Kearney will have faced this year, he may not be as hard to guard as some of the things Saint Louis presented in the second half last weekend.
"Watching the personnel and seeing what they do and a couple of moves that they do, I'm looking forward to the challenge," Kearney said. "I just want to use my length against him (Kuric) and just get my hand in the way of his shot and contest every shot he attempts. Just stay sound and solid on defense.
"It's just a matter to be there to help on Siva and get out to help on shooters. That's the main thing, going against Louisville."
Louisville guard Chris Smith: "As a team, we'll have to match their physicality and try to throw the first blow, really.
"We've had a lot of road physical games, like Cincinnati. We played West Virginia on the road and we got a win down there. Playing in the Big East, pound for pound is the most physical conference there is. But for us going into this game, I feel in '09 they out‑physicaled our guys. Watching that film, we want to go out there and try to make everybody be on the same page, really, heart‑wise."
Freshman power forward Chane Behanan on the task of guarding Michigan State's Draymond Green: "They're looking for me to limit his (Green's) touches, limit him on the offensive glass, defensive glass. They gave me that job as a freshman so I have to have the mindset of a veteran. Just get the job done and move on to the Elite Eight."
Pitino, giving conflicting information as to whether he had his players view film of MSU's victory over Louisville in the 2009 Regional Finals: "We actually haven't (referenced that game in preparation) because we're so different. We had two lottery picks back then. And it's a totally different team. They're a totally different team. We run totally different things today, so we haven't referenced it at all."
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