Spartan fans may not be surprised but they have to be thrilled with the way their team is starting to play. Tom Izzo and his Michigan State team advanced to the Big Ten championship game Saturday night with a win over Wisconsin at the Indianapolis Field House Saturday night. The Spartans will battle the Michigan Wolverines for the Big Ten title Sunday.
Michigan State advanced by upsetting No. 12 Wisconsin 83-75 in a game that was not as close as the score might indicate. It was the first time since January the No.22 ranked Spartans has won consecutive games. Senior forward Adreian Payne led Michigan State with 18 points.
Michigan advanced to the final earlier in the day by defeating Ohio State 72-69. The Wolverines needed a 7-1 run at the end of the game to secure the victory. Michigan was led in scoring by sophomore guard Nik Stauskas with 18 points and junior guard Caris Levert with 17 points.
The Badgers and Buckeyes leave the conference tournament early but will both earn high seeds in the NCAA tournament.
Izzo’s squad is getting hot at tournament time after a sluggish February and March that saw the Spartans go 4-6 and seemingly lose their way to a once promising season. This is not the first time Michigan State has done this under Izzo though and the 2013-2014 season looks to be no different.
The Spartans began the year ranked in the top 10 and started the season well going 18-1. They entered the Big Ten tournament with a 23-8 record though and seemingly reeling. Apparently a tournament and a calendar that says March is all the Spartans need as the unexplained malaise that hit Michigan State has vanished.
Perfect timing too because in-state rival Michigan is waiting for them. The Wolverines swept Michigan State this season and their first victory over Izzo’s team on January 25 began the slide for the Spartans.
If Michigan State wants to gain some revenge now is the time. The Spartans and Wolverines will battle it out for the Big Ten title with a whole lot of pride on the line. Michigan State is not the only team with something to play for though as Michigan, ranked No. 8 in the country now has a legitimate shot to be one of the top seeds in the tournament with a victory over the Spartans.
Losses by Villanova, Arizona, Kansas and Syracuse have vaulted the Wolverines to this spot. So a usually boring affair for the top teams on Selection Sunday now has fun to in the mix. The Big Ten final is not the only story today but it will be the best. In a weekend full of a lot of meaningless games for the heavyweights of the sport the in state rivals have given fans something to tune in to today.
Sunday’s showdown figures to the best conference final in the country and a great preview for the NCAA tournament starting next Thursday. That can wait for the moment though as the Spartans and Wolverines battle for the Big Ten title, a better seed in the tournament and bragging rights in the state of Michigan.
Commentary by Mick Varner
Detroit Free Press