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'Chances make champions,' men's hoops sounds off on NCAA Tournament seeding

March 15, 2021
<p>Junior forwards Marcus Bingham Jr. (30) and Thomas Kithier (15) celebrate their win after the NCAA tournament game against Bradley at Wells Fargo Arena on March 21, 2019. The Spartans defeated the Braves, 76-65.</p>

Junior forwards Marcus Bingham Jr. (30) and Thomas Kithier (15) celebrate their win after the NCAA tournament game against Bradley at Wells Fargo Arena on March 21, 2019. The Spartans defeated the Braves, 76-65.

Photo by Anntaninna Biondo | The State News

Shortly after MSU was announced as an 11-seed in a First Four matchup against UCLA in the NCAA Tournament junior forward Aaron Henry took to Twitter, an uncharacteristic social media outlet for the team that Head Coach Tom Izzo is outwardly not a fan of. Regardless, Henry wrote, "Chances make champions."

"Cash (Cassius Winston) used to say that a lot when he was here, and it's true," Henry said. "We got a chance to play basketball, we got a chance to win a championship. ... I'm excited and chances make champions, that's really how I feel."

The team's Twitter account reacted similarly, creating a video that highlighted Tweets that doubted them, backed by audio that begins with "Michigan State has a 2.9 percent chance of making the NCAA Tournament."

"More opportunity ahead," the caption read.

The Spartans' seeding puts them in the lowest spot they have ever been in an NCAA Tournament. When the Spartans now 23-year NCAA tournament streak looked in jeopardy, Izzo often brushed questions off about a possible end to this tradition. On Sunday, he took that back.

"I lied to everybody," Izzo said. "I tried to take the heat off, I said the 23-game year stretch didn't matter when I look back and I see Mike Krzyzewski not in. ... I think us and Duke (are the only ones) that had the same coach, and I'm proud of it. ... Getting in is a big deal and it's going to be exciting.

A First Four game isn't ideal and perhaps not what the team expected entering Sunday evening. Izzo admitted that his team had dug their own hole in some ways, but criticized the probable impact that NET rankings, which factor in the margin of wins and losses, had on the teams seeding.

"If the NET hurt us, that's a joke, if the NET didn't hurt us I'm cool with it," Izzo said. "If the NET really had an impact, which I think it seems like it must've, I think that's embarrassing to our profession."

Izzo continued to speak on his team's seeding.

"Was I surprised?" Izzo said. "Yeah, I was surprised. Disappointed? I'm not disappointed."

Having sat out of MSU's 2019 run to the Final Four due to injury, graduate student guard Joshua Langford said he was excited for the opportunity to make another post-season run come Thursday.

"We got an opportunity, and so at the end of the day that's all we can ask for," Langford said. "I haven't been able to play the last two years. To be able to come back and have an opportunity to play in the NCAA Tournament, that's a second to none opportunity so I'm going to make the best of it."

In the NCAA overall official seed list, Michigan State is listed at 43, one above their First Four opponent, UCLA.

Michigan State will enter Thursday's matchup coming off a loss to Maryland in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament. The Spartans have stayed in Indianapolis since that loss, fitting in some practice time at the local YMCA in their off time.

UCLA (17-9) is coming off a four-game losing streak, including an overtime loss to Oregon State in the Pac-12 Tournament.

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