Spartans Basketball Notebook

Michigan State and Purdue will meet for the third time this season when the Spartans enter the Big Ten tournament on Friday. Read head coach Tom Izzo's comments on the matchup and SI analyst Ryan Wallace's assessment, including comments on Izzo's March record, the tournament's financial success, and just what exactly is wrong with the United Center.

March Madness is officially up on us all.

For the Spartans the craziness begins Friday afternoon with a showdown against Purdue in the 2003 Big Ten men’s basketball tournament in Chicago.

MSU finished the Big Ten season with a 10-6 record, good enough for a three-way tie for third with the Wolverines and the Boilermakers.

The Spartans will be the No. 4 seed in the tournament, but MSU head coach Tom Izzo said the seeds won’t matter much this year.

"I think the rest of the tournament is wide open," Izzo said at Monday’s press conference. "In the last few years a lot of different teams have done well."

Last season Iowa made a Big Ten tournament run after having a disappointing regular season and four years ago Illinois, with a No. 11 seed, made it to the championship game against the Spartans.

Izzo said he wouldn’t be surprised if there are more upsets in the tournament this year, especially if it is solely based on the seedings.

Izzo said that Illinois and Wisconsin, the top two seeds may be the favorites, but said the No. 10 seed may pull off some shockers.

"I would not want to be playing Northwestern," Izzo said. "I think they can win some games."

The tournament gets under way Thursday morning at the United Center with the No. 9 Iowa Hawkeyes taking on the No. 8 Ohio State Buckeyes 11 a.m. CST.

Third round of Boilermakers

When Michigan State and Purdue square off in Chicago it will be the third meeting between the two schools, with both owning home victories.

Friday’s game will be on a neutral court and will played with a heavier set of circumstances. Although both teams have seemingly secured a spot among the 64 teams that will selected on Sunday, both are not satisfied.

Just two weeks ago the Spartans handed the Boilermakers a 69-61 loss at the Breslin Center, but Purdue came back to get a key road win at Michigan to end a rocky second half of the season at 3-5.

Purdue would desperately like to get back into the same form that saw them shoot out to a 7-1 conference start, but MSU could be a dangerous first round opponent.

The Spartans ended the Big Ten season winning four straight and eight of the last 10. They are arguable playing there best basketball of the season and Izzo said his kids are ready to make a run.

"Our players are excited and now is the time to find ways to win championships," he said. "We’re excited the regular season is over and that we were able to bounce back with gusto at the end."

Izzo said ending the season on a high note has not satisfied his team and is ready for the competition in the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments.

The Boilermakers are led by senior guard Willie Deane, who finished as the league’s second leading scorer at 19.8 points per game.

Deane is coming of a career-high 36 points against the Wolverines and Izzo said being able to keep him in check is a concern, but not the biggest.

"Their defense can cause you to start turning the ball over and creating problems," he said. "They play a style where they want to get in your grace – and that worries me more than Deane."

Purdue may also have the leadership of Kenneth Lowe back. Lowe has missed the last few weeks after suffering a shoulder injury, but Purdue head coach Gene Keady said Monday that it looks like he’ll return to action.

Lowe averages 11.8 points per game for the Boilermakers, which is second on the team.

For the Spartans, sophomore swingman Alan Anderson remains a question mark. Anderson injured his shoulder during the Ohio State game and did not practice on Sunday. Izzo said he’s not sure what the injury is, but expects Anderson to play, but doesn’t think he’ll be 100 percent.

"March"ing toward another title

The month of March is put-up or shut-up time in college basketball and no team has put-up as good of record in March over the last five years then the Spartans.

MSU is 27-5 in the last five years and are 34-12 in the eight years with Tom Izzo at the helm.

Izzo said that he wasn’t aware of the record, but offered a few reasons why his teams have stepped up their games down the stretch – defense and rebounding.

"When you get into March it’s one and done time and you’re playing for championships and the better defensive teams win," he said.

The Spartans ranked second in league play in field goal defense and for the sixth straight year they had the best rebounding margin in the league.

Izzo said a lot those win came during the Spartans march toward three straight Final Four appearances or maybe it was something else.

"Maybe I’ve had a lucky schedule," he said.

Shake your money makers

This is the fifth year of the Big Ten’s existence, and there’s no question it has been a financial success and has given the conference more exposure, but is it benefiting the players and the teams.

Before it’s inception the team’s would play 18-20 conference games and then waited until Selection Sunday to see if they made it to the Big Dance.

Izzo said on Monday that if he had to make a decision on whether to continue the tournament or not from a coaching aspect he would have to question it.

Izzo said that playing just 16 conference games, and not being able to see each team at least twice has made the non-conference schedule tougher because strength of schedule has become such a huge factor.

He said starting the Big Ten season in December wouldn’t be a problem and that you’re going to be playing games anyway, why not have them against Big Ten teams.

Izzo said he doesn’t know if the tournament will no longer exist, but said if you could play the 20 games in the regular season, it may be more beneficial for the schools across the board.

Tight rims

The United Center has been notoriously known for hosting some the worst shooting performances ever including NBA games.

Tom Izzo said he’s not sure the reason why, but may have a few solutions of his own.

"The rims might be tight so I think I’m going to bring a wrench down there," he said.

Izzo also suggested moving the tournament to a different site altogether.

"A lot of people have had trouble there, maybe we should move it to Columbus," he said.

The Spartans shot a season-best 62.3 percent from the field against the Buckeyes in Value City Arena last Saturday.


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