The Michigan State University’s first-round March Madness opponent is LIU-Brooklyn at 9:20 p.m. Friday. Spartans coach Tom Izzo understands the tournament appearance. This streak is the longest among Big Ten schools and the third longest in the nation behind Duke (17) and Kansas (23).
MSU coach Tom Izzo has helped lead his teams to the Final Four every time they were a No. 1 seed. Sure that maybe bad karma, but no matter, His 2012 Spartans have the juice to step up in the NCAA Wars.
Who at the start of the 2012 campaign expected the Spartans with the graduation of Kalin Lucas and Durrell Summers to compete for a Big Ten title? Yet MSU ended up as co-Big Ten title winners with Ohio State and the University of Michigan.
Winning the Big Ten title in Indianapolis this past weekend and earning a NCAA No. 1 seed were things that I thought were not possible. Then along the way the Spartans ended up winning the Big Ten Tournament titles too.
Following Michigan State’s 68-64 victory over Ohio State in the Big Ten tournament championship game, Izzo unleashed to his faithful that it was “on to the NCAA Tournament!”
Led by senior captain Draymond Green, the Spartans are the No. 1 seed in the west.
The star for Michigan State was senior Brandon Wood, who scored 21 points. When MSU trailed, 52-45, and guard Keith Appling (who had just missed a lay-up) started to wonder if the game was slipping away, Wood grabbed it and wouldn’t let go. He passed to Derrick Nix for a dunk. He drained a three. He drained another. The Spartans led, 53-52, and never trailed again. They won even though its leader, Green, said afterward, “I played awful.” He needed 15 shots to score 12 points.
Michigan State won its first Big Ten tournament title since 2000 on Sunday. Michigan, playing in the Midwest, is seeded fourth, while Detroit Mercy earned the 15th seed in the west.
The Spartans (27-7) were named the No. 1 seed in the West Region, the fifth time they have been a top seed overall and the first since 2001. The previous No. 1 seeds came in 1990, 1999, 2000 and 2001.
The last time the Spartans were a No. 1 seed after winning the Big Ten tournament was in 2000, the last time they won the national championship.
Michigan State will play LIU-Brooklyn in its opening game Friday at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. Its second-round opponent would be against the winner of No. 8 Memphis and No. 9 St. Louis.
“One thing this win does is it gives us momentum going into the tournament,” said Green, who capped one of his worst shooting days Sunday by draining a huge 3-pointer with 1:35 left to clinch the win. “It’s not like we’re just ecstatic because we beat a great team. We put ourselves right up there with the great teams in the nation. We are trying to leave footprints for our legacy here at MSU. We say this group stepped up and did things not many have done.”
Said Izzo: “This was a big win for us because it kind of validates, maybe, that we belong. I’m not gonna lie. I even questioned, ‘Are we good enough?’ And if we were a No. 2 seed, I would’ve completely understood that.”
Notes: Other Michgan schools like U-M (24-9) earned the No. 4 seed in the Midwest region and will play Ohio on Friday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Nashville.Detroit Mercy will face No. 2 seed Kansas. That game will be Friday in Omaha, Neb.
Leland Stein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @LelandSteinIII.