Monday, June 17, 2024

MSU men's basketball earns 9-seed in NCAA Tournament, extends streak to 26 years

March 17, 2024
<p>Michigan State graduate guard No. 2 Tyson Walker watches for a rebound against the University of Minnesota during the Big Ten Tournament in Minneapolis, March 14, 2024. The Spartans knocked the Golden Gophers out of the tournament, securing a spot in the quarterfinals against No. 1 seed Purdue.</p>

Michigan State graduate guard No. 2 Tyson Walker watches for a rebound against the University of Minnesota during the Big Ten Tournament in Minneapolis, March 14, 2024. The Spartans knocked the Golden Gophers out of the tournament, securing a spot in the quarterfinals against No. 1 seed Purdue.

With the conclusion of what was a pulse-speeding Selection Sunday for Michigan State’s men’s basketball team, head coach Tom Izzo and his team can take a collective sigh of relief.

The Spartans were selected as a 9-seed in the 2024 NCAA Tournament’s West Region — earning a bid in March Madness for the 26th straight season under Izzo — in the Selection Committee’s unveiling of the complete bracket Sunday on CBS. 

MSU will face 8-seed Mississippi State on Thursday in Charlotte, N.C. The Bulldogs (21-13 overall, 8-10 in SEC play) are coming off an SEC Tournament semifinal appearance and have faced nationally ranked opponents in five of their last seven contests. The Spartans won the only meeting between the schools in 1973.

Michigan State (19-14 overall, 10-10 in Big Ten play) began the season ranked No. 4 in the country before falling out of the AP Top 25 in early December following a 4-5 start. The Spartans would win 13 of their next 17 games, positioning themselves for a middle-of-the-pack NCAA Tournament seeding but lost four out of five to conclude the regular season. They beat Minnesota on Thursday in the Big Ten Tournament before dropping a close contest with 1-seed Purdue on Friday.  

At the time, MSU’s win over Minnesota seemed to be enough to lock the Spartans into March Madness for the 26th straight season. However, the outcome of several games across the conference championship weekend kept them a question mark ahead of Selection Sunday. Some good examples: NC State and Oregon — two teams otherwise headed for the NIT or worse — upset their way to conference tournament championships, earning an automatic bid in the 68-team field and pushing MSU closer to the edge of missing the cut. 

So, Selection Sunday ended up yielding more stress and anxiety for Izzo and his squad than it could have if the top seeds in the ACC and Pac 12 had taken care of business. Luckily for MSU, the metrics prevailed. The Spartans currently sit at No. 24 in the AP Net Rankings, higher than teams like Nebraska and Northwestern. No team ranked higher than No. 33 in the NET at the regular season’s end has ever been left out of March Madness. 

“I’m just happy we’re in,” Izzo said at a press conference following the bracket reveal. “I’m happy we have an opportunity to keep playing. I’m hoping we can use the experiences we’ve had to put some things together.”

It maybe wasn’t the way Izzo and company drew it up in the offseason, but the Spartans still have a chance to do what hundreds of Division One teams don’t: make a run into April.

Michigan State and Mississippi State will square off on Thursday, March 21 at 12:15 p.m. at Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. CBS will air the game.

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