INDIANAPOLIS - Having earned a berth in the Big Ten Tournament title game for the first time since 2000, Michigan State is now back in the conversation for what could be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2001. "He was a little possessed, which was good," Izzo on Austin Thornton.
No. 8 ranked Michigan State (26-7) has enjoyed a better weekend than No. 3 Kansas (27-6) and No. 6 Duke (27-6), each of which lost in the semifinals of their conference tournaments. Michigan State defeated Wisconsin 65-52 in Saturday's Big Ten Tournament semifinals.
Kentucky, Syracuse and North Carolina are considered locks for three of the four No. 1 seeds. Michigan State, Kansas, Duke and possibly Ohio State are expected to be under consideration for the fourth No. 1 seed when the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee announces the tournament field on Sunday evening.
"I don't really care," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said outside the Spartan locker room, Saturday. "The one thing I think the No. 1 seed gives you is prestige. I don't think it gives you much of an advantage - maybe in the first game. In the second game, whether you are playing an 8-9 or a 7-10, I don't think it matters."
In a season in which Kentucky is emerging as a heavy favorite to win the National Championship, and the team you least want to encounter in your region, a No. 1 seed for the Spartans would at least ensure that they would be able to avoid the Wildcats until the Final Four at the earliest.
Izzo said he hadn't thought about that part of the scenario.
"I think they are better than the Lakers," Izzo said. "But that means you have to play four more games (for it to make a difference) and that's a long time from right now."
Michigan State has not been a No. 1 seed since 2001. Green doesn't share Izzo's apathy.
"We would love to get a No. 1 seed because one thing we always talk about is wanting to leave your own legacy, doing something that hasn't been done here in a long time," Green said. "It is another one of those footprints you can leave in the sand. The way this conference has gone, in my opinion it's been the toughest conference all year long, you would probably think that there is a possibility.
"At the end of the day, those things will take care of themselves. You can't go in looking for a No. 1 seed because of it you do it's not going to happen. You just have to go in and try to win a Big Ten Championship.
"Tomorrow's game is going to be a tough and critical game. One thing we pride ourselves on is hanging banners and that will be another opportunity to hang one."
The Spartans and Buckeyes will tip off at 3:30 p.m. (CBS).
Breaking Through Bucky
Prior to Saturday, Michigan State had been 0-3 all-time against Wisconsin in the Big Ten Tournament.
The Spartans lost to Wisconsin 70-57 in 2007 and dropped a pair of heart-wrenching, 2-point losses to the Badgers in 2004 and 2008.
Saturday's victory broke that spell, and also gave the Spartans a 3-0 record against the Badgers for the year.
"There were a lot of years we didn't match up good with Wisconsin," Izzo said. "What made me feel good today is I didn't know if this was one of those years, losing Branden Dawson, because they were big. But they had to cover us too and maybe that was a problem the other way."
As for going 3-0 against Ryan this season, Izzo said: "That's almost impossible. I know he has beaten us more than anyone we've played. He has had our number and still does in a lot of ways."
Izzo credited the 3-0 mark this year to defense.
"For some reason we have been able to check pretty good against them and yet we have been able to check pretty good against a lot of people this year," Izzo said. "The only thing we had an advantage of is: one, getting it inside; and two, our fastbreak. So those two things helped us a lot this year."
Support From The Cast
Izzo liked the fact that Michigan State rolled to victory against a Top 15 team on a day in which the Spartans' top player, Draymond Green, struggled.
"He made some uncharacteristic bad passes and I think let things get to him," Izzo said. "Thank goodness he kept rebounding."
Green finished with seven turnovers, to go with 14 points and 16 rebounds. He was 3-of-9 from the field.
"DayDay did struggle," Izzo said. "But the guy has been so consistent. Since the Illinois game back in January, the guy has been as consistent as anyone in the country."
Green credited everyone but himself.
"We have been a team that has gotten a lot out of our bigs but I think you have to give a lot of credit to the guards and give this win to the guards because they really carried this team today," Green said. "They did a great job offensively carrying this team and they also did a great job defensively stoping those wings and guards from getting threes."
Austin Thornton delivered three big 3-pointers in the first half, helping the Spartans battle back from double-digit deficit.
"That's what makes this team as special as we are because there have been times all year long when guys haven't been playing as well or guys have gone down with injuries and other guys have stepped up and increased their roles," Thornton said. "Being a part of this team has been a lot of fun. That's what a team is supposed to do. That's why we play a team game. It was a great job by our guys stepping up and making plays."
Defense Shows Up
Michigan State held Wisconsin to 34.7 percent shooting. Star point guard Jordan Taylor managed 19 points on 6-of-14 shooting. Rob Wilson, who has a career-high 30 on Friday against Indiana, had just 6 points on 2-of-5 shooting.
What was MSU's plan for Wilson?
"It was pretty simple: don't let him get any shots off," Thornton said. "We were able to get into gaps and help and recover quickly on him."
Limiting Taylor's penetration was a key.
"One thing we talk about is that when Taylor is penetrating in, the majority of the time he is looking to kick out to those shooters," Green said. "So we try to tell our wings and guards to stay home, stay on those shooters. They played very tough. Trailing those pindowns, they were on their hip.
"You also have to give our bigs, Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix, a lot of credit because when our guards were behind a little bit, they were right there stopping the curl and not letting those guys get an open jump shot.
Key To The Game
"I thought the key to the game was we got our running game going after that bad start. Keith Appling can push it and we can run, but Wisconsin is not an easy team to run against." - Tom Izzo
Not Trice's Matchup
Freshman guard Travis Trice logged only 9 minutes of playing time against Wisconsin. He played 24 against Iowa on Friday, which was his most since Nov. 30.
"I probably should have gotten Trice in there some more," Izzo said.
But Izzo didn't like the way the smallish Trice matched up against Wisconsin, which aims to post up guards as part of its regular offense.
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