It’s March and Michigan State is dancing. The Spartans are heading to Columbus, Ohio as a No. 7 seed in the NCAA Tournament, taking on No. 10 seed USC this Friday at 12:15 p.m.
The tournament berth is head men's basketball coach Tom Izzo’s 25th straight. That’s the most consecutive appearances among any head coach in NCAA history.
“It means the world to me,” Izzo said. “It means that I’ve had a lot of good players. It means that I’ve had a lot of good staff. It means that I’ve had a lot of good fans. You don’t win games over a period of time because of what you do. You win games because there’s a collection of people that are all doing their job.”
The Spartans are sticking in the Midwest for the first weekend of the tournament, spending the first weekend in Columbus.
“Big Ten country. It’s nice for our fans, it’s nice for families. It’s nice for the player’s families,” Izzo said.
Michigan State is coming off of a one-and-done appearance in the Big Ten Tournament, where the No. 4 seed Spartans lost to No. 13 seed Ohio State 68-58. After a stretch of solid play at the end of the regular season, the quick departure from the conference tournament made it clear that MSU has plenty to work on heading into March Madness.
“We came back, had a lot of meetings, a lot of meetings and a lot of talks with a lot of guys on what I thought we did wrong and what I didn’t think we did at a level you have to do it at to play in March,” said Izzo. “I thought the players were really good. They had a little meeting themselves to try and figure it out.”
Despite the poor performance in the Big Ten Tournament, Michigan State is looking to bounce back when it matters most, honing in on consistency and an improved showing from the defense.
“Even though I didn’t think we handled March last weekend very well, there’s going to be those days,” Izzo said. “It’s how you bounce back.”
Last season, Michigan State beat Davidson in its first game of the NCAA Tournament. However, it’s been a while since MSU has made it out of the first weekend. The last time the Spartans made it past the first two games was 2019, when Cassius Winston led them to the final four. This year, the goal is to put an end to that dry spell.
“The program is to the point where it’s still try to win the weekend,” Izzo said. “Winning the game is good. You can’t win the first weekend without winning the first game, so I never look past it. But if you don’t get out of the weekend, you don’t get anything accomplished.”
USC isn’t a guaranteed win and No. 2 seed Marquette is likely next up for Michigan State (barring an upset) - it won't be easy to make to the second weekend. The Trojans collected some impressive wins during the regular season, including the fifth-overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, UCLA.
“They’re athletic, they’ve got some size and they’ve got a heck of a guard,” Izzo said.
Izzo and his staff are already scouting and prepping for the first round matchup.
With all of the bumps, outside events and chaos of the regular season in the rearview mirror, it’s onto the postseason. One loss and Michigan State’s season is over.
“It’s a whole new season and we’re looking to go on a run, so you’ve got to put that all behind you,” graduate student forward Joey Hauser said.
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