Thursday, December 9, 2021

U to wrap up regular season at home

March 1, 2002
Freshman guard Kelvin Torbert looks for to pass against Iowa guard Luke Recker during the Spartans’ 75-71 loss on Jan. 22. MSU wraps up the regular-season at home against the Hawkeyes Saturday. —

A Spartan win Saturday would guarantee the men’s basketball team a first-round bye in the Big Ten Tournament.

MSU (18-10 overall, 9-6 Big Ten) needs to win its final regular-season game against Iowa (16-13, 5-10) at Breslin Center to earn the No. 5 seed in the March 7-10 tournament at Conseco Fieldhouse.

The difference between the No. 5 and No. 6 seed is one extra game, and one extra day’s rest. The top five teams each receive a bye in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, while the last six must play four games to win the title.

With the threat of hitting the pr0verbal wall lingering above the Spartans, MSU head coach Tom Izzo said the extra day’s rest is crucial.

“With this year’s team I think it makes a little bit of a difference,” Izzo said. “The advantage to be a fifth seed is how many games you have to play to try to win the thing.”

With that thought in mind, it’s easy to understand why the Spartans can’t look past Iowa on Saturday.

The Hawkeyes may have dropped seven of their last 10 games, but MSU knows Iowa can play a lot better than its record indicates. On Jan. 22 the Spartans lost 75-71 to the Hawkeyes in Iowa City.

Freshman guard Chris Hill said another loss to the Hawkeyes would hurt the Spartans’ NCAA Tournament hopes.

“It’s very important as far as the tournament goes,” Hill said. “We’re not looking at it as we’re definitely in the tournament.”

Postseason tournaments are not the only reason the Spartans want to win.

With Saturday being Senior Night, Hill said MSU definitely wants to win for guard Mat Ishbia.

“For him to go out on a bitter note is something we don’t want at all,” Hill said.

The 5-foot-10, 175-pound guard has one more year of eligibility, but is opting not to use it.

“I’m glad in a way that he’s doing it, it would have been kind of empty,” Izzo said. “There’s no managers, there’s no anybody. Roses in the middle of the court with no one around them.

“In a special way it’s kind of apropos that he is there by himself because I’m sure there’s been a lot of lonely days on that bench when you look through his career. He’s battled through all of them and deserves his day in the sun.”

Izzo said he might start Ishbia, but will sleep on the decision.

“That would be special,” Ishbia said. “He’s done so many things for me, I wouldn’t expect it.

“If he did that, it would be the icing if there could be. Just being there is enough for me.”

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