What a difference a year can make.
After high preseason expectations, the Michigan State Spartans limped into the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament last year before bowing out to UCLA in 1st round. That team wilted under the pressure of two straight Final Four visits in 2009 and 2010.
This season the Michigan State Spartans (27-7, 13-5 Big Ten) enter the NCAA Tournament with momentum after clinching a share of the Big Ten regular season title, and winning the Big Ten Tournament championship. The Spartans were rewarded for their efforts with a No. 1 seed in the West Region of the NCAA tournament.
Michigan State is led by senior forward Draymond Green, who was named Big Ten Player of the Year in 2012. Green averaged 16.1 points per game, along with 10.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists. Green is the heart and soul of this Michigan State squad, and head coach Tom Izzo had called him ‘the perfect Spartan’.
Izzo has led Michigan State to the NCAA Tournament 15 years in a row, including six Final Four appearances during that streak. He was named Big Ten Coach of the Year this season, and National Coach of the Year by CBSSports.com. Many regard his work with this year’s Spartan team as his finest coaching-job to date.
Michigan State will begin the tournament against No. 16 seed Long Island University Brooklyn (25-8, 16-2 NEC) on March 16th at 9:20 p.m. ET. The Blackbirds are headlined by forwards Julian Boyd and Jamal Olasawere. Boyd averages 17.4 points per game, along with 9.5 rebounds, while Olasewere averages 16.8 points and 7.5 rebounds.
Potential opponents for the Spartans after LIU Brooklyn include No. 8 seed University of Memphis (26-8, 13-3 C-USA) and No. 9 seed St. Louis University (25-7, 12-4 A-10). The Memphis Tigers are known for their athleticism, while the St. Louis Friars feature a resolute defense.
Michigan State should advance the Sweet Sixteen, barring an upset. However, the Spartans have their eyes set on yet another Final Four run.