Kampe: Don't bet against MSU winning the whole thing
Oakland men's basketball coach Greg Kampe didn't like Michigan State's No. 7 seed the moment the NCAA Tournament bracket was unveiled two weeks ago. He thought the Spartans deserved better, and he thought the seed put them in a tough position to even survive their second game against Virginia.
Now, MSU is back in the Final Four -- a development that shouldn't surprise anybody, given Tom Izzo's history, but it still has a bit of the stun factor.
Kampe explained why and more in a chat with The Detroit News on Sunday night.
Question: What are your overall impressions of MSU's latest run?
Answer: I think it's been a magical run, and you know, they've survived a lot of things that could have been a stake to the heart. They missed two free throws (late Sunday), and then the (Louisville) guy comes down with four seconds left and misses a free throw that could've possibly won it. I think that they're playing with unbelievable confidence, and they're playing Michigan State basketball, the things that made Izzo great. Their rebounding has been unbelievable, the physicality has been unbelievable, and the big-shot making -- they've made big shot after big shot after big shot. They get themselves in trouble, and then they find a way.
Question: You mention the free-throw shooting. You'd think eventually, it would catch up to MSU. But it hasn't.
Answer: You think it's going to, but the game is so physical. They beat the other team up so bad that they miss them, too. In fact, the run in the second half started when (Louisville's) big guy, he missed two in a row. They had built that lead back up, the next think you know Michigan State was ahead. When you grind the way they grind and never give up, and play as hard as they play, great things are gonna happen.
Question: You were on record as not liking Michigan State's draw. What are you thinking now?
Answer: I thought Virginia, having to play them in the second (game), I thought that was gonna be a very, very difficult game for them, and it was and they won it. The wave they rode through that game, they're still riding it. It's probably common knowledge out there that was the weakest region. Basically, what it comes down to is it's pretty obvious Michigan State was mis-seeded. Virginia got the brunt of that.
Question: Next up is Duke, a rematch of a game in November, when the Blue Devils won, 81-71, in Indianapolis, of all places. Your thoughts?
Answer: You saw it early in the year. If I were a betting man and these two matched up, I think Michigan State wins the game. I think Michigan State is so improved, they're playing with a purpose and a mission.
Question: On the other side of the Final Four will be Kentucky and Wisconsin. Kentucky is 38-0 and the heavy favorite. Can anybody beat the Wildcats?
Answer: It almost happened last night (Saturday). I don't know why it can't happen. I don't know why Wisconsin can't. And I gotta believe Michigan State believes they can beat anybody, they way they're playing. If you can shoot it like Michigan State, you can beat anybody.
Question: So, it sounds like you are picking the Spartans to win it all?
Answer: Uh, no (laughter). But I think they can.
Question: What if Wisconsin shocks the world, and MSU beats Duke. How would an all-Big Ten championship game look?
Answer: That would be awesome, awesome for the Big Ten and awesome for the state of Michigan. It would be special.
Question: And would you like MSU in that scenario?
Answer: I think I would. They play so physical. They won (Sunday's) game on an offensive rebound. They just out-tough you. In games like this, that wins. It goes back to what I said. This team is mirroring what Michigan State basketball has been for so many years. That play by (Branden) Dawson that won the game, that was an offensive rebound putback.