Michigan State is in the Final Four. Say what? The Spartans, who looked so ordinary during the regular season, have rolled off four straight wins over Georgia, Virginia, Oklahoma, and Louisville to reach the pinnacle of college basketball. Just how did that happen? Michigan State's defense locked down, Travis Trice started playing like a superstar, and Bryn Forbes kept knocking down transition threes on the reg. Here's five reasons why the Spartan magic isn't done just yet.
1. Trice has discovered his inner beast
A solid role player during his first three seasons in green and white, Trice was supposed to play second fiddle to Denzel Valentine and Branden Dawson in 2015. Tom Izzo even moved him to the bench for a while to make room in the starting lineup for Tum Tum Nairn. Even when Trice was relegated to sixth man, though, he didn't stay seated for long. His leadership and bucket-making has proved invaluable to the Spartans during their tourney run. He can create his own shot and make an ugly possession look beautiful even when nothing else is working for the Michigan State offense. At around 20 points per game, Trice has clearly been the MVP of the Spartans in the big dance.
2. But Trice doesn't have to carry the whole offense
Michigan State historically is known more for defense and rebounding than offensive creativity, but this year's squad gets points from a variety of sources. When Trice isn't bailing everyone out with a step-back jumper, Valentine can stretch out the defense while setting up for his teammates. Dawson is a put-back master who can score in the post, while Forbes is always ready to launch when the defense pays too much attention to this buddies.
3. They might not have to play Kentucky!
We already know that the Spartans can hang with Wisconsin thanks to their overtime game in the Big Ten Tournament final. Maybe the Badgers can do their Big Ten mates a favor and knock off the undefeated Kentucky Wildcats before Michigan State even has to play them! Wisconsin can use its combination of size and shooting ability to draw the Kentucky big men away from the basket and out of their comfort zone. If Sam Dekker is still on fire, beating the unbeatable team should be a piece of cake for Wisconsin, right?
4. Tom Izzo is the best coach in the Final Four?
He's not a five-star magnet like John Calipari, and he hasn't racked up titles the way Mike Krzyzewski has, but no one consistently wins the way Tom Izzo does. If last year's Spartans hadn't lost to UConn during last year's NCAA Tournament, we'd still be talking about the Michigan State coach as the guy who brings every four-year player to the Final Four. Looks like one class got skipped, but Izzo is right back at it in 2015, even with a seventh-seeded squad that wasn't supposed to even reach the Sweet 16.
5. America loves that Cinderella
Yes, that seeding makes the Spartans a surprise entry in this year's Final Four, even if Michigan State remains a brand name in college basketball. If Izzo's team was called something else, we'd all be celebrating them as the little underdog in a crowd of giants. Instead, Michigan State was supposed to be here all along. Make no mistake, though, the Spartans weren't that great in the regular season and seeing them take the title in 2015 would be a shock on par with some of the great underdog runs in college hoops history. Maybe America will realize that soon and rally around this team like it should.