After recent NCAA struggles, Tom Izzo, MSU embrace this 'opportunity'

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo, right, talks with Xavier Tillman during the Minnesota game.

East Lansing — The sun is still shining when Michigan State finishes practice these days, and that is good news for Tom Izzo.

The Spartans shook off a three-year first-weekend skid in the NCAA Tournament by beating Bradley then Minnesota over the weekend in the East Region. They now advance to the Sweet 16 for the 14th time in Izzo’s 24-year tenure.

“It was a good weekend for us as far as winning,” Izzo said on Monday. “We had mixed feelings on how we played then I watched the rest of the Tournament and realized so many teams had struggles in games.

“We’re excited for the opportunity to play another weekend. There are only 16 teams left and the weather is getting nice, days are getting longer and we’re practicing at the right time of the year.”

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No. 2 Michigan State (30-6) is practicing for Friday’s matchup at Capital One Arena in Washington D.C. against No. 3 LSU (28-6). It will be only the second time the programs have ever met, but that goal remains the same for the Spartans — win the weekend.

It’s something they hadn’t done since 2015 when the reached the Final Four, but it will continue to be the approach as the winner will move on to meet the Duke-Virginia Tech winner on Sunday for the chance to advance to this season’s Final Four next week in Minneapolis.

“We do want to win the weekend and the only reason I do is I learned that from some great programs around the country,” Izzo said. “It wasn’t something I came up with. It was what you do after you get your program to a certain level when winning a game in the NCAA Tournament doesn’t matter anymore.

“And I know conventional wisdom says you have to win your first one before you win the second one, but that’s just not the way we operate. Today we’ll look at all three teams a little bit and we’ll try to figure out what they do. … The goal still is to win the weekend and we’ll try to prepare that way.”

East Region


Tip-off: 7:09 Friday, Capital One Arena, Washington

TV/radio: CBS/760

Records: Michigan State 30-6; LSU 28-6

At stake: The winner moves to the Elite Eight to face No. 1 Duke or No. 4 Virginia Tech.

Twitter: @mattcharboneau