The expectations could not have been higher for the Michigan State Spartans entering the 2013-2014 season. Unfortunately they fell one game short of continuing Tom Izzo’s storied streak of taking every senior class he’s coached to at least one Final Four. Nonetheless, fans of the Spartans got to witness some phenomenal basketball games and dazzling performances by their three stars in their final season in green and white. Let’s look at the best three games of the season for Michigan State.
Tuesday January 7th vs. Ohio State; W 72-68 OT
At this time the Spartans only loss came in December at the Breslin Center to North Carolina. This early season conference test proved to be a critical point in the season for both teams as Ohio State began to plummet after the overtime defeat while Michigan State continued to ascend in the rankings. Keith Appling might have played his best game of the season in this contest as he recorded 20 points, 7 assists and 6 rebounds including hitting the tiebreaking three with 29 seconds left in overtime. The Spartan lead swelled to 17 with just 7:14 to go in the game when Ohio State came storming back led by their senior Aaron Craft. Craft provided the defensive spark for the Buckeyes while Sam Thompson picked up the slack at the other end of the floor finishing with a team-high 18 points. Their remarkable comeback to force overtime made this game a classic despite the Spartans pulling it out in the end.
Big Ten Championship: Sunday, March 16th vs. Michigan; W 69-55
These are the types of matchups that college basketball fans dream of. Michigan State entered this game having lost three in a row to John Belein and the Wolverines dating back to the 2012-2013 season but there was never more on the line then this day in Indianapolis. The outcome was not in doubt for long. Michigan State, fully healthy and game tested for the first time in nearly four months, displayed to the country a stifling Spartan defense that put every team in the NCAA Tournament field on edge. Michigan State held Big Ten Player of the Year Nik Stauskus to just 4-14 shooting and allowed only two Wolverines to score in double figures. Immediately following this game the Spartans were given a 4 seed in the Big Dance, yet at least six ESPN experts predicted MSU to win the whole thing given how strong they performed on this day.
Sweet 16 Game: Friday, March 28th vs. Virginia; W 61-59
Michigan State stood toe to toe with not only the number one seed in their region, but the number one defensive team in the country in their quest to advance. The Spartans had to overcome a poor start to the second half to claw their way back into the game and eventually take the lead late. The only reason they were able to do that was because of their defense. Though Michigan State’s offense was uninspiring outside of Branden Dawson (24 points 10 rebounds), they picked up the slack at the other end of the floor holding the Cavaliers to just 35% shooting for the game. When the brackets came out, this game was seen as the only real barrier between MSU and a Final Four berth. Unfortunately for the Spartans, those experts forgot about Shabazz Napier and Co. over in Stores, Connecticut. Nevertheless, the last win of the season for Michigan State was dandy and they got it done in typical Spartan fashion: with great defense.
Undoubtedly, Spartan fans would love to see a game on this list that entailed a National Championship victory of sorts but this year, it just wasn’t in the cards. Despite missing the incredibly high expectations set for themselves last summer, this team played in some thrillers and fans of the Spartans should be proud of both their coach and team for keeping it together and having a shot to contend for the title despite an injury-ravaged regular season. They continue to exemplify what a excellent college basketball program entails.