East Lansing, MI
As Michigan State enters this year’s Big Ten Tournament they may not know today who they will play, but they know their options. MSU will tip it off with either Penn State or Ohio State and that makes preparation for MSU more interesting as they wait to find out which team they will face.
Tom Izzo addressed it saying, “We are going to play Penn State or Ohio State. If we play Ohio State, they finished 11-7 in our league, 21 wins and that is in our first round. They’ve beaten Kentucky and he (Thad Matta) has done a helluva a job with a young team there. I think that is a very talented team. Penn State they’ve beaten Maryland and they’ve beaten Iowa. I just have never seen a year like this. Never! We are going in hoping to advance in the Big Ten tournament not even thinking about the other one. We’ve got our hands full. In one respect we have played both teams somewhat recently, if it is Ohio State it will be the third time in three weeks.”
But to me there is something much more intriguing about their matchup. The Spartans have blown out both teams TWICE this season. Beating them by an average of 25.5 points and the closest was a win in Columbus on February 23 by only 19. So is there a danger in that players can be looking ahead to Saturday or does Tom Izzo find solace in the fact that he has four seniors to steer the Spartans ship? I asked him.
“One of the better questions because that is the battle cry. How many close games have we played in? Not many. In the last 10 or 11, not many at all. Is that a plus to us or is it a minus for our future? I mean you have to know how to play in those kind of games and so I think the seniors are going to be incredibly important this year. And I think they know it and I think they’re working and doing the things they got to do, too. I still say, when I say Colby on down, I mean Colby on down. They’ve done a good job. Yesterday they had a little meeting theirselves just to go over some things. I think they’re really in the right place, but it’s been a hell of a book, unfortunately everybody looks for the endings. I’m telling you, I feel confident we can win the Big Ten championship and I feel unfconfident enough to know we can lose in the first game. Anybody that thinks that’s a motivational statement, I don’t feel as good about things because I respect the other teams and I think they are good.”
But for Izzo who hasn’t always embraced the conference post season contest, it is different now. He loves it and looks forward to it. But don’t take my word for it.
“So it’s gonna be a hell of a tournament an when you’re in a tournament like that, you need your upperclassmen to make sure we’re focusing on each and every game on the step, that’s when you get knocked off.”
The #2 Spartans enter the tournament with a 26-5 (13-5) record. The Spartans even picked up two first place votes this week as the top team in the land.
The Spartans will tip off Friday from Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis at 6:30 PM. That game can be seen on BTN.