Tom Izzo’s streak lives on.
Michigan State earned a No. 9-seed in the Midwest Region of the NCAA tournament, the Spartans’ 20th consecutive appearance in the Big Dance. They will face No.-8 seed Miami, Fla. (21-11) on Friday in Tulsa, Okla. The winner of that game would play Sunday against No.-1 seed Kansas or No. 16-seed NC Central/UC Davis.
MSU (19-14) finished the season by winning seven of its final 12 games to pull itself off the bubble, but the Spartans also dropped three of their final four. That included Friday’s 63-58 loss to Minnesota that bounced Izzo’s team from the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals. MSU finished in a four-way tie for fifth place during the Big Ten regular season.
“It doesn’t get very finite in their lives," Izzo said Friday. "There’s always another game. Something like this is a definitive, finite part of their life. I think we’ll learn from it, I do.”
According to ESPN on Sunday morning, MSU ranks 10th in strength of schedule and 49th in RPI. The Spartans are 3-3 against teams ranked between 51-100 in Sunday’s RPI. However, they also are 6-9 against teams in the RPI top 50, including 2-7 against those in the top 25.
Izzo enters his second decade of NCAA tournaments with perhaps his youngest roster. It includes four freshmen, one of them burgeoning superstar Miles Bridges, and three sophomores among the nine-man playing group.
“They don’t know how to compete for 40 minutes when people got things on the line …,” Izzo said. “I think me and my staff gotta do a better job of getting it across to them.”