The Spartans fell short on two of their goals for the 2003-04 season - winning the Big Ten regular season title and the Big Ten Tournament Championship - but there still is the chance of reaching one goal: a Final Four. And as unlikely as it might seem, the Spartans are serious. MSU received a No.
Indianapolis - The Spartans can't help their coach beat Bo Ryan. MSU had another opportunity to defeat Wisconsin on Saturday evening in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals, but the Spartans' chance clanked off the back of the rim. Down by two points with 4.8 seconds on the clock, Spartans sophomore guard Maurice Ager grabbed a rebound and sprinted up the floor, but a last-ditch 18-foot jumper hit off the back of the rim, leaving the Badgers with a 68-66 triumph. "I don't think I could have gotten a better look," Ager said after the game.
MSU's chance at a Big Ten championship will have to wait - whether for a couple of days or another season is the question. The Spartans had a chance to recapture the conference crown and raise another banner at Breslin Center after a two-year hiatus, but MSU lost a 68-64 thrilling overtime game to No.
The MSU men's basketball team might get a chance next year to take its game to a whole new level - aboard an aircraft carrier. University officials are engaged in talks about the plan, which would pit MSU against the Navy while the Air Force would take on North Carolina in a season-opening doubleheader.
State College, Pa. - Sharpen the scissors and get the ladders out of storage, because MSU is playing for a Big Ten Championship - and a chance to cut down the nets - Tuesday against Wisconsin at Breslin Center. The Spartans (17-9 overall, 12-3 Big Ten) beat Penn State, 67-42, on Saturday night, guaranteeing them at least a share of the Big Ten Championship if they win their regular season finale against the Badgers. "Everything now is one and done," head coach Tom Izzo said.
State College, Pa. - The Spartans are honoring a creed handed down from generation to generation: sharing. Against Penn State, nearly every Spartans shot was prefaced with pass.
Like an aging boxer short on money, the MSU basketball team refused to give up. And as the Big Ten season winds down to its final rounds, the Spartans are proving the beatings they took only made them stronger. After MSU's first Big Ten game, a loss to Wisconsin, the team was two games under 500 - its worst start since the 1987-88 season - and had lost each of its marquee nonconference matchups.
The Spartans were glad to have a productive Alan Anderson back. "I was really happy for Alan Anderson, coming back off his worst game as a Spartan to maybe one of his best, if you look at his total line," MSU head coach Tom Izzo said. Coming off a zero-point, four-foul, two-turnover, one-assist performance in 10 minutes against Purdue, the junior swingman scored 12 points, dished out six assists and had two steals, leading the Spartans to a 66-56 victory over Northwestern on Saturday. The win keeps MSU (15-9 overall, 10-3 Big Ten) in sole possession of first place in the conference, a half-game ahead of Illinois (18-5, 9-3). After shooting 40.9 percent against Purdue, the Spartans regained their stroke, shooting 54 percent (27 for 50) against Northwestern.
Tom Izzo loves the Izzone - 90 percent of the time. It's the other 10 percent that makes him question having the Spartans' cheering section. Late in the second half of MSU's 69-58 win over Minnesota on Saturday, the Izzone started chanting "UN-EM-PLOY-MENT" to Golden Gophers head coach Dan Monson, the main reason being Minnesota's 1-10 record in the conference. Izzo said he didn't hear it in the waning minutes of the game, but he was "ticked off" when he caught word of the chant. "If I would have heard that, it would have been worth a technical to walk over and smack somebody," Izzo said.
Champaign, Ill. - The Spartans figured they couldn't win every game with offense alone, and they got hard proof of that against Illinois. The Spartans (12-9 overall, 7-3 Big Ten) gave the Illini too many offensive opportunities, and Illinois (16-5, 7-3) took advantage, outshooting MSU on its way to a 75-51 win. MSU's defense has concerned coach Tom Izzo throughout the season, but the Spartans have recently overcome that with a high-powered offense.