Despite the best efforts from the rest of the Big Ten, and regardless of what calendars everywhere may say, Michigan State reaffirmed Sunday that the third month of the year is in fact the month of Izzo.
The Big Ten Tourney may not have had the false alarm buzzer beater leading to a reverse court storming that the Big 12 did, nor was there a four-overtime thriller like the one put on in the American by UConn and Cincinnati.
But it was a microcosm of what we can only hope the 2016 NCAA tournament will become–upsets early on (Illinois over Iowa, Michigan beating Indiana, Nebraska taking down Wisconsin), tight games and even a buzzer beater or two, and the best teams eventually asserting their dominance and rising to the top.
After steamrolling a desperate Ohio state team on Friday and surviving a strong performance from Maryland on Saturday, the Spartans defeated Purdue 66-62 to take home the Big Ten Tournament title.
Most assumed that Michigan State’s tournament-clinching win would be the cherry on top of a number-one-seed resume. Instead, it will take on Middle Tennessee State in a 2-15 match up in St. Louis. Should it win on Friday, it will play the winner of Dayton versus Syracuse.
Around the rest of the league, Michigan used an upset over Indiana to propel itself into a play-in game of the NCAA Tournament against Tulsa. A victory in Dayton would set up a showdown with the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.
Joining Michigan State among the ranks of the underseeded, Indiana winds up as a five-seed and faces a potential match up with Kentucky in the second round, with the winner moving on the Sweet 16, likely against No. 1 North Carolina.
After looking like a possible three-seed against Michigan State on Sunday, the Boilermakers also find themselves on the five line, matched up against a sneaky Arkansas-Little Rock team that lost only four games all season.
The Maryland Terrapins join Purdue and Indiana as five-seeds following a three point loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten semifinals. They will play the champions of the Summit League, South Dakota State, on Friday in Spokane, Washington.
The final two of seven Big Ten teams to make it into the bracket are Iowa and Wisconsin, both seven-seeds. Iowa will play Temple before potentially matching up with the Villanova Wildcats. Wisconsin’s first opponent will be Pittsburgh, with Xavier likely waiting in the second round.
After five days of basketball, Michigan State proved what most of us that closely follow the sport already knew–you don’t want your favorite team to play the Spartans in March.
Michigan State seems to share some of that same DNA found in the Alabama football program, the New England Patriots of the mid-2000s, and the Golden State Warriors as of late. They just win, plain and simple. There is something about those teams that no matter the scenario, they seem to pull victories out of the few games they don’t flat out dominate.
The Spartans may be playing with a “2” next to their name, but take heed when filling out your bracket. This is one of the top three teams in the country. In college basketball, March is synonymous with brutal heartbreak. In the face of everything that this tournament has ever taught me, Michigan State just may be immune to this month’s cruel mayhem.