The Michigan State Spartans (32-6) have made 22 straight appearances into the NCAA Tournament. They are making their first Final Four appearance since the 2015 season. Interestingly enough, Kenny Goins was a member of the Spartans during that time. He also hit the 3-point shot to put the Spartans into the Final Four.
The Spartans shared the Big Ten regular season title with the Purdue Boilermakers. They won the conference tournament title over the Michigan Wolverines. However, they were slotted as the No. 2 seed in the East region with the Duke Blue Devils. Many thought the Spartans should have been a No. 1 seed. However, only 2 of the top 8 seeds made the Final Four, so it’s more about playing the games on your schedule.
Michigan State Spartans (32-6) East Region Champs
Head Coach: Tom Izzo (606-231) 24 Seasons
East Region: No. 2 seed
Big Ten Regular Season Champs
NCAA Tournament Wins: 4
1st round: 76-65 vs. No. 15 seed Bradley Braves
2nd round: 70-50 vs. No. 10 seed Minnesota Gophers
Sweet 16: 80-63 vs. No. 3 seed LSU Tigers
Elite 8: 68-67 vs. No. 1 seed Duke Blue Devils
Final Fours: 10
National Semifinal opponent: Texas Tech Red Raiders
Remember when the Spartans lost three straight games in the beginning of February. The swoon began when the Spartans lost to the Boilermakers in the last game of January. At the time, it seemed like a bad loss. However, the next two losses to the Indiana Hoosiers and Illinois Fighting Illini were of major concern.
Yet, the Spartans won 13 straight games prior to the mid-season losing streak. They won five straight games before another loss to the Hoosiers. Currently, the Spartans are on a nine game winning streak. Meaning, they have what it takes to win six games in a row in the NCAA Tournament.
Player To Watch: Cassius Winston: We all know what a great point guard can do for your team. Winston has been a great point guard from the moment he stepped on campus. Now, as a junior, Winston leads the Spartans with 18.9 points and 7.6 assists. He is also shooting 40 percent from 3-point range this season.
The Spartans should be concerned about turnovers during their national semifinal against Texas Tech. Winston averages 2.9 turnovers per game. He had a single turnover in the win over Bradley. However, Winston committed 9 total turnovers in the blowout wins over Minnesota and LSU. He bounced back with one turnover in the win over Duke. That means Winston has been more careful with the ball in the close games. He better be mindful of the Red Raiders’ incredible defense.
The front court must play well. The size of Xavier Tillman and Nick Ward could pose problems for the Texas Tech front line. They should be able to limit the shot blocking from Tariq Owens.
X-factor: However, keep an eye on Aaron Henry. Word is, Henry is the leading freshman scorer in the Final Four. He is averaging 5.9 points per game this season. Henry can have big games. He can also look like the moment is too big for him. Truthfully, Henry seemed to feel the pressure in the Duke game. He only scored four points on 2 of 7 shooting. Yet, Henry was a star in the Sweet 16 round when he scored 20 points to defeat LSU.
Matt McQuaid must also take care of the ball against the pressure defense. He is their fourth leading scorer at 9.8 points per game. McQuaid will have an opportunity to break the Red Raiders’ defense with his 3-point shooting. However, he must take it to the hoop when opportunities arise. The Spartans should remember the Red Raiders held Michigan to 1 of 19 shooting from 3-point range in the Sweet 16. Therefore, if shots aren’t falling early, they must find a new strategy.