EAST LANSING - Michigan State coach Tom Izzo has toyed around with the idea of playing in Spokane for quite awhile and will even venture to the Pacific West at some time during the next few years as the road portion of a home and home with Gonzaga. But Izzo and his Spartans will take an earlier trip to Spokane, Washington for the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.
Izzo will open tournament play in the backyard of former Spartan coach Jud Heathcote as the No. 5 seed in the Midwest bracket. Michigan State will face New Mexico State in the first round of the tournament. A win on Friday will likely pit the Spartans against Maryland Sunday.
"As always, I am excited to be in the tournament," said Tom Izzo. "There are some pretty amazing seeds when you look at some of the teams people are playing. I must admit, I have not seen a lot on New Mexico State yet. I will tonight as I watch tape. I know that they beat Nevada in the semis on Nevada's home court and I watched them take Duke to the wire. And then they beat Utah State to get here and Utah State is a very well coached team. So they must be playing their best basketball right now, but I will know a lot more about them later."
Michigan State has only lost on second-round game during the Tom Izzo era. That game came against North Carolina in the Tar Heels' home state. If Michigan State is going to make it past New Mexico State and advance out of the first weekend, they are going to have to some significant steps in developing team chemistry between now and next Friday.
The Spartans will be playing with Chris Allen who is back with the team after sitting out of Michigan State's first-round loss to Minnesota for an unspecified violation of team rules. Allen practiced with the team on Sunday and was with the team to watch the Selection Sunday show on CBS.
"We are going to see what we can and make a run," said Izzo. "We felt like watching the film (of the Big Ten Tournament) that we played very well considering who we played, meaning what personnel we had in the game. Defensively, we were almost the best that we have been (in the second half). Give Joseph credit, he hit two major shots. Offensively, we turned it over a little bit. We missed a lot of good shots from lay-ups to free throws. We counted 19 points on just missed free throws because of misses on the 1-and-1 and especially those critical missed two shots and two shots. And that hasn't been like us. It hasn't been like we have been a great free-throw shooting team but we have been a lot better."
Michigan State's wings and guards will be the key to the first weekend and beyond.
"It is going to be time to put everybody together now," said Izzo. "We will see if Durrell (Summers), Chris (Allen), and Kalin (Lucas) can play like we are capable of. Our inside play has actually be pretty good. I am still pleased with Nix and Raymar (Morgan) and Draymond (Green) have been playing great, and Delvon, who can only go so long can I think help us against a lot of teams."
SELECTION SUNDAY PRESSER
If you are unable to watch the video embedded in the story above, click on the link below to watch Izzo's reaction to his team being selected a five seed in the Midwest bracket.