Sweet 16 "feels older" for MSU

In their third straight Sweet 16, the Spartans are approaching it differently - and hoping it leads to a better outcome than the previous two.

In his first taste of the NCAA Tournament, Gary Harris exited earlier than he expected.

The Sweet 16 was as far as Michigan State made it a year ago, as Duke ousted the Spartans. It left Harris with a feeling he doesn't want to experience again and lessons to take moving into this year's Sweet 16.

"It's the way you come out," he said. "Duke came out and jumped on us from the start and we were never able to pick it back up after that."

Coming out with a different mindset this time around and that's something Harris expects to see in Friday night's meeting with the No. 1 seed Virginia Cavaliers.

"I feel like we're not as uptight as last year and I feel like we're more focused," he said.

The sophomore guard pointed to experience as a big reason for the way this second weekend of the NCAA Tournament feels. Sophomore Matt Costello agreed.

"It feels a little older," Costello said. "Everybody is more prepared and we aren't quite as much saying ‘What is going to happen?'

"We know what we've gotta do."

The Spartans are expected start two seniors, a junior and two sophomores. All four have experienced the pressures of March and four of whom started against Duke a season ago. But it is the adversity faced throughout this season that Harris said adds to the overall experience of the Spartans.

"Everything we've been through, there's nothing we haven't seen this year," he said. "To have everybody healthy and playing in the Sweet 16, that's easy compared to having to play with not knowing who's going to be in the starting lineup."

Through all the injuries and illnesses that afflicted the Spartans, the focus on winning championships remained the same, junior Travis Trice said.

Now that the postseason has arrived and the Spartans have won five straight games, it appears the Spartans are hitting their stride.

"I feel more confident about this team than I did last year with our team," Trice said. "I feel like our team is better. I feel like guys are all on the same page and we're playing some of the best basketball.

"I love the way we're playing right now. I feel really confident in the way we're playing."

For Trice, he has been to the Sweet 16 in each of his three years and the first two both ended with losses. It is something he doesn't want to see become a routine any longer.

"We just don't wanna repeat what happened last year," he said. "This is three years in a row we've made it to the Sweet 16 and we don't wanna make this the third where we get bounced."

Fortunately for him and his teammates, it is a another chance to advance. With lessons, experience and confidence on their side, this March could lead to a better outcome.

"It's a new year, we've got a chance to do something special," Harris said. "It's time to focus on what we've gotta do and the task at hand."

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