MSU men's basketball looks to NCAA Tournament for one final push
WASHINGTON, D.C. — As the final buzzer sounded against Minnesota, the MSU men’s basketball team was officially knocked out of the Big Ten Tournament.
Now as the remaining teams fight toward the Big Ten Tournament championship, the Spartans will fly home to await their calling in the NCAA Tournament.
This freshman class — Miles Bridges, Joshua Langford, Cassius Winston and Nick Ward — have all talked about their maturity, growth and how they think they are closer to sophomores and juniors rather than freshmen. Few players, like senior guard Alvin Ellis III and junior guard Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn Jr., have multiple years of experience in the Big Ten.
But the lack of experience in the postseason pushes them back in the freshman category. First of all, they need to make the tournament. Many projections have the Spartans as a No. 9 seed.
“I mean, I’m not really worried, we have some key wins,” Bridges said.
A one win, one loss performance in the Big Ten Tournament — considered a below average conference this season — will have to translate into a run in the NCAA Tournament.
“We are going to have to harp on the guys some more saying, ‘It’s one and done time,’” Ellis said. “We just have to stress out to the guys that it is one and done time and we can’t lose any games.”
Heads down from the 63-58 loss to Minnesota, Langford said they are still capable of damage in the Big Dance.
“I think we have been through so much adversity, so we know how to deal with ups and downs,” he said. “You saw this game had a lot of ups and downs, momentum shifting things like that, I just feel like we know how to deal with adverse moments, and that’s something you see in the tournament.”
This season, MSU has had to deal with an inexperienced team, a tough early schedule and a myriad of injuries.
Players like redshirt-sophomore forward Kenny Goins and sophomore guard Matt McQuaid missed the summer to train in their craft.
Regardless, they will still have to lace up with an opponent that won’t hold back because of MSU’s injury list. In their last six games without fifth-year senior guard Eron Harris, the Spartans hold a record of 3-3. Despite the record, McQuaid said the team has been coming together.
Just one season ago, the No. 2-seeded Spartans were upset by Middle Tennessee State. Although the team make-up is night and day from last season, some more experienced players have that game in mind.
“I still remember that game, I think about it a lot,” McQuaid said. “I try to use it as motivation.”
Others, not so much.
“We’re not worried about last year, we are worried about this year,” Ellis said. “It is a new team, we have to worry about who is on the floor.”
If MSU is invited to the NCAA Tournament, it will be 20 straight years the Green and White will be in March Madness.