On April 13, 2017, Michigan State basketball star Miles Bridges stood in front of the famed Spartan Statue on MSU’s campus. With his teammates behind him and head coach Tom Izzo to his side, he announced that he would stay at MSU for his sophomore season.
His reason? He wanted to win a national championship.
“Back then I just wanted to speak things into existence,” Bridges recalled on Sunday. “I never knew it could happen. I didn’t know we would deal with injuries or anything else that would happen. I just wanted to speak it into existence.”
Now he’ll have that chance.
The No. 3 seed Spartans will open NCAA Tournament play on Friday when they face No. 14 seed Bucknell in Detroit, less than 100 miles from their campus in East Lansing.
“Now it’s here, so we just have to grind,” Bridges said. “We’re going to have to work hard, practice, watch a lot of film and get better because Bucknell is a good team.”
It’s not exactly home court advantage, but MSU will take it.
“I was a little surprised,” Izzo said of the team being selected to go to Detroit. “I didn’t think we would end up there. I wasn’t surprised where we could be seeded. I was just excited to go to Detroit. But other than that, everything else was just normal.”
Izzo is quite familiar with the expectations that surround his team in March each year.
After all, he has led MSU to a Big Ten-record 21 straight appearances in the NCAA Tournament, one of which ended in the Spartans defeating Florida to claim the 2000 National Championship.
This year, as the Spartans look to win a third national title, they’ll likely have a horde of Spartan fans scrambling to find tickets and make their way to the newly-built Little Caesars Arena.
“It’s close to home,” sophomore Cassius Winston said. “We’ll have a huge fan base there. Every little edge, every little advantage that you can use, we’re going to use all of it.”
The Spartans enter the NCAA Tournament coming off a seminal loss to rival Michigan in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament that dropped them to 29-4 on the season.
Despite the recent struggle, MSU is among the favorites to claim this year’s national title. To Izzo, it’s his team’s consistency year in and year out that makes his squad constantly a title favorite.