The Spartans get the play UCLA on Thursday in Tampa.

The Spartans get the play UCLA on Thursday in Tampa.

 

 

East Lansing, MI

Breslin Center

 

 

The Michigan State Spartans found out tonight that they are back in the NCAA tournament for the 14th straight season.  They take their #10 seed, playing in the Southeast region at Tampa, Florida, to take on UCLA.

 

Michigan State’s 14 straight years in the NCAA tournament is the third longest streak in the nation.  Kansas now is in it for the 22nd straight season and Duke for the 16th.

 

For a season that the team called a “National Champion or bust” at the start, it certainly didn’t go as planned.  Those expectations now can be fulfilled if the wizard of March Tom Izzo can once again pull the proverbial rabbit out of his hat.  With Tom Izzo in possession of six Final Fours and one national title in the last twelve years, this one would be his most impressive.

 

Draymond Green talked about the impression of the Spartans when March arrives from around the nation. “We know our backs are against the wall.  Ain’t nobody else gonna take us as an underdog.  They think we wave a magic wand, it’s March and become the greatest team of all.”

 

The lowest seed Izzo has possessed and taken to the Final Four is a five.  Being 10 this year, would certainly make the odds less than advantageous.  But you can’t count Izzo out.

 

Izzo said of his draw this year, “The last Big Ten team to get announced.  A good situation for the Big Ten.  I wanted us to sweat it a bit.”

 

Although he certainly hasn’t had a chance to do his legendary March film evaluation Izzo said of his first opponent UCLA, “Playing UCLA is a good thing.  I am a Ben Howland fan.  I have only seen them once.”

 

Draymond Green is not as familiar. He said, “They play pretty late.  I have seen them a few times though.”  He talked about super UCLA freshman big man Josh Smith, the 6’10” 320# center. “I can take anybody.  Whoever I got to guard. I am not backing down from no one.  Just like I have to guard him, he has to guard me.”

 

Izzo talked about having heard his teams name being called, “We’ve been an underdog a few times this year.  I don’t think there is any pressure of us.  Expectations are high.  Should be.  The relief of getting in is only for the streak.  Getting in doesn’t mean as much.  I am more worried now about competing.  We are not going to face any teams harder than we already faced.  We aren’t going to face anyone tougher.”

 

Izzo reflected on his team having such experience this time of year.  “This is where experience can really help you, especially if you win the first one.  We don’t have to beat 64 teams.  At least we don’t have to change time zones.”

 

So why does Izzo do so well this time of year?  His couldn’t contain his enthusiasm when he said, “The NCAA tournament is about match-ups, focus and determination.  One at a time.  That is what it is all about.  We know that.  This is my favorite time of year.  There is nothing better than March.  Probably two or three points will determine a game.”