By Adam Biggers
Derrick Nix has hardly ever held back his emotions. But after a comment Sunday, Nix, unknowingly or not, set him self up to be a target. He'll have to shoulder more of the Spartans' load in the Big Ten Tournament in order to escape his latest hot sound bite.
Last season, Nix, who was then a sophomore, questioned his team's leadership under seniors Kalin Lucas and Durrell Summers. He wasn't wrong to do so, but there is often a time and place for such comments.
And Sunday, after the Spartans' last-second 72-70 loss to the Ohio State Buckeyes, Nix again let his emotions take flight as he answered questions from reporters. Although the Spartans won the Big Ten regular-season title, they also had to share it with Ohio State… and Michigan, the Spartans' arch nemesis.
"It's real emotional because we're Big Ten champs, but at the same time, none of us are happy," Nix said Sunday. "And that shows what type of group of guys we've got. Because my freshman year (2010) we won and we shared, but everyone was happy. But we're not happy toward this one, just sharing it. That just comes with all the blood, sweat and tears we've put in, because this meant a lot to us and really meant a lot to our seniors."
The Spartans gave up a 15-point lead to Ohio State, which was fueled by William Buford's spirited shooting performance. The Buckeyes senior scored a game-high 25 points, but that wasn't the worst part of Sunday's loss, Nix says—sharing the title with Michigan was.
"We had to share it with our little nephews, and that sucks," Nix said. "So now they're happy because we lost. We got to just try to win this Big Ten tournament."
Nix's "Little Nephews" comment was a derivative of former Wolverines football player Mike Hart's "Little Brother" comment a few years back. That comment was bulletin board material for the Spartans, who went on to beat UM four straight years on the field.
It's understandable that Nix was upset after Sunday's loss. In fact, one would expect—given Nix's track record—for him to say something along those lines. Now—and probably more so with the loss of freshman Branden Dawson—Nix will have to step up and help lead Michigan State.
If he does, the "Little Nephews" comment will be forgotten, likely considered a humorous point for the Spartans to talk about as they celebrate a tournament title. If Nix fails, and the Spartans lose, his comment could come back to haunt him as Hart's comment has seemingly haunted the Wolverines on the football field for the the past four years.
When it comes to Michigan-Michigan State, there are little, if any boundaries when it comes to "trash talk." Each side has thrown darts, but they've been confined more so to football than basketball. As co-champions, the Wolverines will likely look to make Nix eat his words.
Nix's comment is the fuel for the Wolverines. Not that they were in need of motivation, but it makes this year's Big Ten Tournament all the more personal for Michigan and Michigan State. It will also seep into the NCAA Tournament, as each team won't only compete against those in their regions, but against one
another.As if March Madness couldn't get any "madder," enter Nix's "Little Nephews" sentiment. It's good for the Spartans and good for the Big Ten. But it's great for fans on both sides.