MSU keeps focus as Big Ten title hopes still flicker

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

East Lansing — In the wake of a Senior Day victory over No. 16 Wisconsin on Sunday, Michigan State was riding a wave of momentum it hasn’t seen much of this season.

The Spartans (18-11, 10-6 Big Ten) won for the fourth time in the last five games and further solidified their position in the NCAA Tournament while keep alive a shot, albeit a slim one, at grabbing a piece of the regular-season Big Ten title.

Coach Tom Izzo said Michigan State’s practice Monday will not be “a day-after-a-game practice; it’s gonna be a hellbent-for-election practice.”

However, getting a freshman-heavy team to put that in the rearview mirror and focus on the final two games is the biggest challenge facing coach Tom Izzo.

“Today is gonna have to be a big practice because I think right now everybody is probably acting like we’ve accomplished this, this and this,” Izzo said Monday at his weekly news conference. “No. 1, we haven’t accomplished anything because it’s the way it is, but we did take a giant step (Sunday), and I think now you can be playing to get in the tournament, you can be playing for seed in the tournament. There’s so many things so many teams are still playing for and we’re just one of many.”

Michigan, MSU climbing in bracket projections

With a 9 p.m. tip at Illinois up next followed by a trip to Maryland, Michigan State finds itself in a tie for third place in the Big Ten and if things fall the right way, could still find itself in a tie for first place.

However, getting the youngsters to focus on an Illinois team that has won three straight and now finds itself near the NCAA Tournament bubble is the priority, and Izzo emphasized how important Monday’s practice would be.

“It’s not gonna be a day-after-a-game practice; it’s gonna be a hellbent-for-election practice,” Izzo said. “We’re gonna have to get after it and really kind of make them understand that OK, we’ve had a big win but, maybe not in your era here, but this is more the norm here not the exception. We got to make sure they understand the difference.”