This is the Michigan State team that everyone has been waiting for. From tip off of their first game on Friday, the Spartans dominated the three opponents that they faced and struck fear in the minds of the rest of the country at the same time. I wrote last week how important this tournament was for Michigan State as they looked to jell finally after every starter missed time at some point this season with injury, and this team answered the bell.
It's fitting that the Spartans capped it off by beating Michigan for the first time this season. What's even more fitting is how the Spartans beat the Wolverines, playing great defense and dominating the glass. Tom Izzo continues to solidify his Hall of Fame resume as yet again he has his team playing their best basketball when the postseason rolls around. By the time the top seeds began play Friday, Villanova had lost in the opening round of the Big East Tournament leaving Michigan or Wisconsin an opportunity to slide into the final number one seed. Unfortunately for both schools, they ran into a Spartan team that was on a mission.
A missed opportunity by the Wolverines and Badgers pales in comparison to the message sent by Michigan State leaving Indianapolis. By Tom Izzo standards, this team has underperformed this season, but there has been an unspoken asterisk next to this team's record as they haven't been fully healthy since November. Michigan State proves once again that ending a season on a bad note (they lost three of their final four games) is a poor indicator of how a team will perform in the postseason. This Spartan team played with a sense of urgency all weekend and it showed in the hustle stats. Michigan State's tenacious defense held the one of the nation's best offenses to just 55 points and didn't allow a point to the Wolverines in both the fast break and off turnovers. The Spartans held the Wolverines to just 31% shooting while shooting 50% themselves and as the commentators noted, nothing for Michigan came easy.
At the end of the day, no team made or broke their NCAA tournament chances in Indianapolis but the momentum coming out of the Big Ten Tournament is enough to put the rest of the country on watch. The championship game loss by Michigan in no way dampens their great season thus far and the Wolverines are a legitimate Final Four contender as a probable two seed. But this Spartans team steals the headlines as for the first time all season they looked the part of a preseason national title contender. Both teams figure to be tough outs in the coming weekends but if the Spartans especially, play as they did this weekend in Indy, they could be the team to cut down the nets in Dallas.