A Spartan win Saturday would guarantee the mens 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 days 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 days rest is crucial.
With this years 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, its easy to understand why the Spartans cant 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.
Its very important as far as the tournament goes, Hill said. Were not looking at it as were 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 dont 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.
Im glad in a way that hes doing it, it would have been kind of empty, Izzo said. Theres no managers, theres no anybody. Roses in the middle of the court with no one around them.
In a special way its kind of apropos that he is there by himself because Im sure theres been a lot of lonely days on that bench when you look through his career. Hes 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. Hes done so many things for me, I wouldnt expect it.
If he did that, it would be the icing if there could be. Just being there is enough for me.