Tom Izzo is Mr. March.  Do the Spartans have a run in them?  Photo courtesy of the author.

Tom Izzo is Mr. March. Do the Spartans have a run in them? Photo courtesy of the author.

 

East Lansing-  In the NCAA Tournament for the 14th consecutive season, Tom Izzo’s Michigan State Spartans are headed to Tampa, Florida with the goal of “Winning The Weekend”.   First up for the (19-14) Spartans is a matchup with #7 seed UCLA (22-10) on Thursday night at 9:20 p.m. EST in a game televised by TBS .  Izzo and the MSU team look forward to playing a non-Big Ten team that doesn’t know everything they do.

Izzo mentioned that a key for MSU putting together another good tournament run past the first weekend, will be getting some scoring punch out of senior G Durrell Summers.   Summers was the Most Outstanding Player of last year’s Midwest Regional, and averaged 20.0 points per game through the tournament’s first four games.  Last season Summers averaged 11.3 points per game and shot 45.5% from the field, this season Summers has averaged 11.5 points per game but his shooting percentage has dropped to 38.7%.   Izzo said Summers has been pressing and panic had set in with this being his senior season, but he has shown the ability to produce in the NCAA tournament and Izzo said he would be happy if he can produce 18 points a game.

NCAA Tournament experience will be an advantage that MSU has to take advantage of against UCLA.  No senior class in the NCAA tournament field has more experience than Kailin Lucas, and Durrell Summers.  Add junior Draymond Green who also played major roles in two Final Fours, while UCLA starts two sophomores in Forwards Reeves Nelson 13.9 ppg, and Tyler Honeycutt 12.6 ppg, and freshman 6-10 center Anthony Stover all who have never even played in an NCAA game.  Honeycutt, Nelson, and junior G Malcolm Lee (13.0 ppg) were all voted All Pac-10 First Team.   Izzo said 90% of NCAA games are close where every possession matters and ball handling is crucial, MSU has a definite advantage in perimeter experience.  

The only common opponent both teams have played is Washington who MSU beat 76-71 in Maui, while UCLA lost to them twice in Pac–10 play.    The two tradition laden teams have never met in an NCAA game.  The last time they played in 2007 in the CBE Classic in Kansas City #2 UCLA with big man Kevin Love won 68-63 when Lucas and Summers were freshman for MSU.   Lucas started for an ill Drew Neitzel and scored five points.  Durrell Summers gave MSU a spark off the bench scoring 11 points on 2-of-2 shooting from the field and a perfect 7-of-7 from the free throw line.

Ben Howland’s Bruins are similar to MSU in that both emphasize defense and rebounding.  Expect to see more minutes out of Derrick Nix going up against UCLA’s big 6-10, 305 lb freshman Josh Smith.  MSU has had two hard spirited practices this week prior to heading to Florida and Kailin Lucas, Durrell Summers, and Draymond Green are again talking about making an NCAA Tournament run.   First the goal from Izzo is to “Win the Weekend”.    Izzo is 10-3 in first round games and get past UCLA and that is where Izzo really excels in one day prep having won nine of his last ten games and this Saturday will probably be #2 seed Florida.