MSU heads to Big Ten tourney uncertain about NCAA status

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

College Park, Md. — Michigan State headed home from Maryland on Saturday night, but it won’t be gone long.

Following the 63-60 loss to the Terrapins, the next game for the Spartans will be at next week’s Big Ten tournament down the road at the Verizon Center in Washington. But even having played its last game, Michigan State’s position in the conference tournament was still quite fluid heading into Sunday’s last games.

There are four Big Ten games on the docket, and Michigan State won’t know its seeding until at least the final game — Michigan at Nebraska — tips off at 8 p.m.

Depending on how it all plays out, the Spartans could be seeded No. 5, No. 6 or No. 7, and trying to predict what it might be at this point is foolish in a conference that has been as difficult to read as any all season.

The Spartans aren’t worrying about it.

“We’ve got some time and I don’t know when we play Thursday,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “I don’t care who we play, I don’t care where we play and I don’t care when we play. But I do care we get a couple of days where maybe we can have two-a-days and figure out what we’ve got to get better at. I’m dedicating those three days to them and I think they’ll dedicate it to me and we’ll see if we can come back out there in Washington at the Verizon Center and see if we can play well.”

Michigan State (18-13, 10-8 Big Ten) will need to play well to keep from sweating on selection Sunday. However, the Spartans insist that’s not on their minds right now.

Michigan State guard Cassius Winston, center, shoots between Maryland forwards Justin Jackson, left, and Ivan Bender in the first half.

That's cold: MSU loses on last-second bucket

“I don’t know what will happen but I’m not nervous about anything,” junior Lourawls "Tum Tum" Nairn said. “I’m happy to be part of this team. Whatever happens, happens. We’ll just focus on the next game which is in the Big Ten tournament.”

To reach the conference tournament championship for the fourth straight season, the Spartans will need to win three in a row and then a fourth to claim the title. Since January, they haven’t won more than two in a row.

However, they feel they’ve started to play better, despite the two losses to close the regular season.

“You definitely can build on it,” freshman Cassius Winston said. “We played hard and for the most part made good decisions that win games against top team. We play like that every game we’ll be all right.”

All right enough to get on a run?

“Hopefully we can win a Big Ten championship,” freshman Miles Bridges said. “It’s up to us if we want to or not.”

Unstoppable force

Michigan State defended the final Maryland possession on Saturday exactly how it wanted to, Izzo said. It simply came down to Melo Trimble making a big shot.

“The guy made a hell of a shot,” Izzo said. “We did exactly what I wanted and a great player did what he should do and hit a shot from 25 feet. That’s what veteran guys do. That’s exactly what I told my team. I just don’t have one of those and give him credit.”

Izzo subbed Nairn in for Winston before the final possession, opting for Nairn’s superior defense with the thought Trimble would attack the basket. That, in fact, is what Maryland coach Mark Turgeon expected.

However, Trimble had other ideas.

“I didn’t hear him say it,” Trimble said. “I heard him say try to get to the basket and try to find and open teammate if I couldn’t do it. I think of myself as a great shooter, obviously I couldn’t make every shot but I felt in rhythm and I made it.”

Nairn stayed in front of Trimble and got his hand up, but it wasn’t enough to bother Trimble.

“I didn’t want to double team and my man get an open shot,” Bridges said. “Tum was playing great defense on him. That was just a great shot.”

Bridges managed to get off a decent shot at the buzzer that would have tied the game but it bounced off the rim.

“Kenny (Goins) threw a great pass I just didn’t make the shot,” Bridges said. “(I thought it looked good) but it happens.”