For its 25th straight year, Michigan State men’s basketball will play in the 2022-23 NCAA tournament, the most consecutive appearances under a single head coach.
“The tournament for me has been one of the highlights of my life, much less my coaching career,” Michigan State head men's basketball coach Tom Izzo said.
First round games begin on Thursday afternoon and will be played through Friday.
The No. 7 seed Spartans will face No. 10 seed USC on Friday afternoon in Columbus, Ohio. Tipoff is slated for 12:15 p.m. at Nationwide Arena.
“I’m glad because of our fans, our student athletes, our parents, the media,” Izzo said of the location. “It’s a more doable deal.”
MSU kicked off March with a disappointing, short-lived tournament appearance against Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament.
The green and white played sluggish defense and couldn’t seem to break out of their offensive funk, leading to a 68-58 loss to the Buckeyes in Chicago, Illinois.
Despite the loss, the Spartans view their shortened conference tournament run in a positive light, allowing for more practice time prior to Friday’s first round contest.
“We didn’t start off March as well as I had hoped with the Big Ten Tournament,” Izzo said. “But at the same time we learned some things, hopefully got them corrected.”
Although his Big Ten Tournament performance didn't quite show it, Izzo said he looks to senior forward Malik Hall as a key to MSU’s NCAA tournament success.
Hall, despite a questionable performance against OSU, is known to showcase versatility on both ends of the floor. Not only that but he's arguably the most experienced player in the rotation.
“We need somebody who can do things at different positions and guard different positions,” Izzo said.
Scouting the Opponent:
The Trojans (22-10) were 14-6 in the PAC-12, finishing third in the conference.
Both teams (MSU and USC) played Oregon at different points of the year. The Spartans hung on to defeat the Ducks in their second game of the Phil Knight invitational, a period in their season without the presence of Hall and sophomore guard Jaden Akins on the floor due to injury.
USC fell to Oregon 78-60 on the road on Feb. 9.
With top programs in its conference, USC has had experience facing some of the toughest 2022-23 season teams (No. 2 seeds UCLA and Arizona).
The Trojans' height is the largest threat to the green and white alongside their key guards, fifth year Drew Peterson and senior Boogie Ellis.
“Peterson is a long kid, he’s got I guess Larry Bird qualities,” Izzo said. “He’s really a good passer. He can shoot the ball, but he’s a really good passer.”
The soon to be Big Ten team has played gritty defense as of late, something MSU has shown to be inconsistent especially in its Big Ten Tournament appearance last week.
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One relief in the draw is that USC lacks a star big, alleviating concern in the middle for MSU.
Should the Spartans win on Friday afternoon, they will advance to take on the winner of the Marquette/Vermont matchup in the second round of the tournament on Sunday.
“It is pressure, that's why only a few team's move on..." Izzo said. “You do your job, you handle the pressure, you move on. You don't? You go home.”
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