In the spirit of the ESPY Awards next month, we have decided to take that concept with the major awards and apply it to the past year of Michigan State athletics. Readers will have an opportunity to vote for the Best Male Athlete, Best Female Athlete, Best Game, Best Coach and Best Team. When looking for nominees, we actively tried to avoid putting multiple representatives from a single sport in each individual category. We will announce all of the winners tomorrow. You can also use the links above to go back and vote for Best Male Athlete, Best Female Athlete, Best Game and Best Coach if you missed it when those articles were published.
Football – One of two teams to win the conference championship at Michigan State this past year, the football team has been gradually inching their way closer to a national title. This year, they made their first appearance in the College Football Playoff and is one of five Spartan athletic programs to be represented in their respective playoff. The Spartans continued playing the disrespect card, even after beating Ohio State on the road with the most productive quarterback in school history on the sideline with an injury. Though they were decimated in the playoff game, it is still a step forward for a program that has been built from the ground up into a nationally respected program.
Men’s Basketball – The other team at Michigan State to win a Big Ten title, the men’s basketball team, had a successful year if you are almost any other program. They won the Big Ten Tournament Championship for a record-tying fifth time and finished undefeated during the non-conference slate playing against teams like Oakland, Florida, Louisville and Kansas. Had Valentine not been hurt, this team is probably looking at the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. An upset to a hot-shooting Middle Tennessee team in the first round of the NCAA Tournament put a damper on the season but, when looking at talent alone, this team was one bad game away from a potential national championship.
Women’s Basketball – While the Spartans were knocked out once again before the first weekend ended, there was plenty of controversy surrounding MSU’s spot in the tourney. Typically, the top four teams in each region are entitled to host the opening weekend. Before this became a regular occurrence in NCAA women’s basketball, Michigan State and the MHSAA agreed to a deal that allowed the high school final four to be played at the Breslin Center. When a scenario like this happens and the host school doesn’t have the means to a facility within 30 miles, the opening weekend takes place at the next best seed’s home. The Spartans went to Mississippi State were they were bounced in the second round in a game that itself was surrounded in controversy. A win would have had the Spartans in the Sweet 16 in what would have been a program-measuring game against UConn. They wrapped up the season third in the Big Ten and advanced to the Big Ten Tournament Championship before being knocked out by Maryland. It’s an unfortunate situation for a team that was definitely one of the best 16 teams in college basketball this season.
Men’s Cross Country – After some time away from the NCAA Championships, the men’s cross country team made the final event of the year for the second straight season. At the NCAA Championships, the Spartans represented well, finishing 25th overall. The men finished fifth in the Big Ten Championships and second in the Great Lakes Regional.
Women’s Cross Country – While the men are just starting to climb their way into the national rankings, the women’s team has been their for some time. The women finished third in the Big Ten Championships and Great Lakes Regional. In the NCAA Championships, they were the third Big Ten team to finish and they finished 13th overall.
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