Spartans beginning to look like Final Four team

The Michigan State Spartans basketball team is beginning to take the look of a Final Four team as the Big Ten season winds down. Last night's knockout win over Wisconsin was just the latest expample of a team responding to masterful coaching and gelling as a group. Read more when you <I>Get Inside</i>

EAST LANSING - Don't look now, but the Michigan State Spartans basketball team is beginning to look like a Final Four type team.

The Spartans won their sixth straight Big Ten contest and save the presence of an elite team like Illinois hanging around, they'd be looking at a #1 seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament.

As it is, the Spartans are likely headed for a #2 seed in the big dance as they head into the Big Ten tournament and post season. The Spartans big swing in momentum can be traced directly to a masterful move by coach Tom Izzo.

Izzo made the move to insert freshman point guard Drew Neitzel into the starting lineup after a blowout, 81-68 loss to Illinois.

Neitzel started and played 25 minutes in a win over Iowa. Despite a furious charge down the stretch by the Hawkeyes, Neitzel was allowed to experience some of the pressure. He broke down a defender and fed junior Paul Davis for his only assist of the game, but it was a huge play at the right time.

From that point on, the freshman's confidence grew to the point where he felt comfortable under the heat and the team gained confidence in his ability to deal with the pressure.

An offshoot of the move was that Hill responded to his role as the sixth man, pouring in 27 points - his biggest scoring output of the season - in an 83-69 win over Ohio State.

MSU hasn't looked back since.

The upcoming Big Ten tournament will be a good test of the new look Spartans. Alan Anderson has taken the leadership role that the seniors were expected to assume all on his shoulders and has become the inspiriational leader of this group. Anderson looks like a future NBA'er.

The Spartans have left behind the look of the underachiving disappointment of early on and appear to be on the road to a solid post-season finish.

Give Tom Izzo credit for pushing the right buttons and give the MSU basketball players credit for responding.


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