Who Are These Spartans?

NCAA tournament: What to know about USC opponent Michigan State

Seventh-seeded Spartans, the Trojans’ first-round foe, finished 19-12 overall but boast five Quadrant 1 victories

Adam Grosbard (OC Register)  —  Tenth-seeded USC (+1.5 underdogs) will open the NCAA tournament Friday against seventh-seeded Michigan State at 9:15 a.m. The Trojans will be preparing to face a team with lots of big-game experience on CBS. Here’s what you need to know about the Spartans.

CoachTom Izzo, inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2016, 28th season as MSU head coach

Overall record19-12

Conference record11-8, good to finish fourth in the Big Ten before a 68-58 loss to Ohio State in the conference quarterfinals

Top playersG Tyson Walker (#2), 14.6 ppg, 1.2 spg; F Joey Hauser, 14.2 ppg, 6.9 rpg; G A.J. Hoggard, 12.5 ppg, 6.0 apg

Biggest winsThis is how the Spartans earned their way to a No. 7 seed despite a worse record than the Trojans: with five Quadrant 1 victories. A November neutral-site, double-overtime win over Kentucky was a strong start to MSU’s résumé. The Spartans added one with a road win over Wisconsin and home wins over Rutgers, Maryland and Indiana.

Toughest lossesA one-point loss to Gonzaga in November and a one-point loss to eventual No. 1 seed Purdue stand out on the Spartans’ schedule, but the Big Ten tournament loss to a sub-.500 Ohio State team without its leading scorer ended Michigan State’s chance to improve its résumé in the final week.

Injury reportN/A

Matchups to watchWalker vs. Kobe Johnson. This has been the defensive battle Johnson has been training for all year, with the season on the line and needing to shut down the other team’s leading scorer. Walker is extremely shifty and fast. Despite being 6-foot-1, he is skilled at using his body to neutralize shot blockers at the rim.

Johnson, an All-Pac-12 defensive team selection, will try to use his length to harass Walker.

What you need to knowThe Spartans enter the game having lost three of their past six games. Michigan State ranks fourth nationally in 3-point shooting at 39.5%. The Spartans ranked eighth in the Big Ten with 35.7 rebounds per game, but just 8.9 of those came on the offensive end. The Spartans hold opponents to 42% shooting from the field but rank 345th nationally in turnovers forced (9.7 per game).

What they’re saying about Michigan State“Michigan State’s a quality opponent, just like everyone else in March Madness. That’s why they’re there. The Big Ten, we’re going there in two years and this is a Big Ten team. A lot of people say that the style of basketball is different. I don’t necessarily agree with that. Every team has their own unique style.” —USC head coach Andy Enfield.

“They gotta adjust to us as well. I feel like we play a pretty fast-tempo game and they kinda play a little bit slower. We’re excited, we’re ready for the challenge.” —USC guard Boogie Ellis.

History: USC is 3-3 all-time against Michigan State, losing the last meeting 74-69 on March 22, 2009 in the second-round of the 2009 NCAA Tournament held in Minneapolis, Minn. In that game, No. 10 seed USC and No. 2 seed Michigan State battled down to the wire in a game that featured 16 ties and 14 lead changes.

Future: Should USC beat Michigan State, the Trojans face the winner of No. 2 seed Marquette-No. 15 seed Vermont in the second round on Sunday.



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Knighted Member
March 15, 2023 8:44 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

This is cool, we get to face Brian Kelly again. But I thought we had Alabama in the season opener for 2024. Was that ever the case?

Mt Rushmore
March 15, 2023 8:02 am

Either political party should beat the other to the punch and declare tomorrow and Friday national holidays.

Mt Rushmore
ATL D.D.S.(@atl-d-d-s)
March 15, 2023 10:27 am
Reply to  Chris

Yeah, our work ethic in 21st century America is just astounding.