Michigan State is known for its exploits in the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments. That is no different this year as this young team has suddenly grown up.
Michigan State was on the bubble, but not really on the bubble entering the Big Ten Tournament.
Tom Izzo had his team play an extremely difficult schedule and pick up several nice wins. But the Spartans lost their fair share and were not in their familiar position. Their 19 wins were the fewest for the Spartans since the 2004 season. And, despite finishing fifth in the conference, Michigan State’s 10 conference wins are the fewest since 2011.
The Spartans entered the Big Ten Tournament in and likely in even with a loss in the second round Thursday. But still a bit uneasy. Michigan State’s success in March is well documented and this is, quite simply not that team.
Tom Izzo has led a young team with a lot of freshman who had to learn the ropes in the Big Ten.
There were growing pains and uncertainty.
This is March. This where Spartans mature. This is where Tom Izzo makes noise. And even this young Michigan State team is not going to do that legacy wrong.
Penn State upset Michigan State earlier in the season. The Nittany Lions never got the opportunity to do so again. Tom Izzo worked his magic for the tournament and had Michigan State playing up to tits fullest potential. The Spartans, facing a Golden Gophers team the Spartans have beaten twice already this year in the quarterfinals Friday, suddenly look like they could make some serious noise.
The damage to Penn State in Thursday’s second round matchup at Verizon Center was devastating.
Michigan State won comfortably 78-51, holding Penn State to 29.1 percent. The Nittany Lions fell behind by 18 at halftime and never made a serious run in the second half. The Spartans toyed with their opponent all game long.
Freshmen Nick Ward and Miles Bridges each had 15 points and nine rebounds. Michigan State had 19 assists on 28 field goal makes, hitting on 49.1 percent of the team’s shots. The Spartans made 10 of 22 3-pointers. Tum Tum Nairn recorded nine assists.
Michigan State dominated the game thoroughly. The Spartans dominated in the way they envisioned winnig games earlier in the year. Michigan State had seemingly grown up.
This is what Tom Izzo teams do. They peak in March. They thrive in these tournament settings. It is hard not to have that familiar feeling when it comes to the team wearing green in March during the Big Ten Tournament.
Michigan State does this seemingly every year. It really should not be a surprise.
It is a testament to Izzo’s coaching every year. His failures in March — like last year’s surprising first-round exit — are few. And Michigan State tends to thrive as the underdog.
There were plenty doubting whether Michigan State could grow up in time to performe this March. Penn State is not the strongest opponent. But it was hard not to be impressed.
And when it comes to the NCAA Tournament next week, Michigan State is a team no one wants to see.