MSU earns No. 2 seed, will play Bradley in first round of NCAA Tournament
CHICAGO — Shortly after rallying to beat Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament championship game Sunday afternoon, Michigan State has earned the No. 2 seed out of the East Region in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.
The Spartans (28-6) will play No. 15 Bradley (20-14) on Thursday in Des Moines, Iowa. The Braves finished sixth in the Missouri Valley Conference but surged to beat Missouri State, Loyola and Northern Iowa to win the conference tournament.
The top-seeded Spartans came back from a 14-point deficit with a 10-0 run in the final 2:48 of the game to surge past the second-seeded Wolverines, 65-60, at the United Center on Sunday.
"I don't know much about Bradley," coach Tom Izzo admitted. "I'll know a lot more by the end of tonight. But I'm not going to let anybody talk me into talking about that if you want the truth. I'm going to enjoy this incredible, incredible win."
TV network and game times are to be announced.
Also in the East Region is top-seeded Duke (29-5), No. 3 LSU (26-6) and Big Ten foes No. 6 Maryland (22-10) and No. 10 Minnesota (21-13).
The Spartans could potentially play the Terrapins and Gophers in the second round and meet the Blue Devils in the Elite Eight. Regardless the team, point guard Cassius Winston is excited at a chance to make a deep run.
"This is the time of year that you live for," said Winston, who scored the game-winning layup with 28 seconds left against U-M, and finished with 14 points. "So we are gonna focus on one game at a time and whoever wants to play use, we’re gonna be ready for it."
Fifth-year senior Kenny Goins — the lone player remaining from MSU's 2015 Final Four run — said the difference between this season and others is the mental makeup throughout the roster.
Last season, MSU was a No. 2 seed but lost to Syracuse in the second round at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit. The Spartans have not made it past the first weekend of the tournament since their 2015 run to the Final Four. With 12 Quadrant 1 wins — a metric that measures strength of schedule, used by the NCAA Selection Committee for play-in and seeding implications, MSU is tied with No. 1 Virginia for the most in Division I.
Goins also attributed the program's scouting and video departments, which make game preparation much easier.
"I think it really has to do with the maturity of this team," Goins said. "Just between all the upperclassmen we have, you can cycle through and one can step up and have a big game. It’s not just that, we keep guys composed. We’re always calming people down no matter how much we’re down."
It marks the 22nd consecutive NCAA bid under coach Tom Izzo, in his 24th season. He's 47-20 all-time in NCAA Tournament games with seven Final Fours and the 2000 National Championship.
Izzo praised his team for playing through obstacles to reach a conference championship. But the next step, he said, is to continue pushing.
"You should aspire to be better each year," Izzo said. "And the way you get better is to try and win a championship."