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Izzo concedes regular season, sees better times ahead

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

East Lansing — The math says Michigan State still has a shot at the Big Ten regular-season championship.

Reality, however, says something different.

“I don’t think anybody’s kidding anybody that we’re gonna be able to win the Big Ten championship, meaning the regular season,” coach Tom Izzo said of his team, which finds itself sitting 7-5 in conference with six games left before the postseason. “There’s almost not enough games left, and who’s gonna lose that many? But getting ready for the Big Ten tournament, getting ready for the NCAA Tournament and still trying to win as many games as we can.”

Beginning with Sunday’s home meeting against Indiana, which just knocked off Iowa and moved into a three-way tie for first in the Big Ten, there is a lot Michigan State will be shooting for, including getting a bye into the quarterfinals of the conference tournament.

“We’ve got a lot to play for yet,” Izzo said. “We’ve got seedings to play for, we’ve got Thursday-Friday to play for in the Big Ten tournament. And we’ve got to get better because we know we’re a good enough team to make a deep run in the (NCAA) Tournament.”

The conference tournament run would be aided greatly by finishing in the top four at the end of the regular season and avoiding playing Wednesday or Thursday in Indianapolis. Entering the weekend, Michigan State need some help as Michigan, Purdue and Wisconsin all have four losses. Only one team will get the fourth spot behind the three conference leaders — Iowa, Maryland and Indiana.

The Spartans have a favorable schedule down the stretch while some of those ahead have a tougher road.

However it plays out, there is some frustration for Izzo, who hasn’t often been in the position to concede the championship at this point in the season. And it comes after Michigan State has suffered its share of tough losses — one-point decisions to Wisconsin and Nebraska before falling to Purdue in overtime.

“Even though that bothers me, I can’t dwell on that because it is what it is,” Izzo said. “We lost two games that I think we should have won, and when you do that, it’s hard to make that up. And yet it’ll be interesting to see what happens now with some of these teams because three or four of these teams are back-end loaded where they’ve got more games on the road against tougher teams.”

Michigan State has four of its final six at home, and one of the road games is at winless Rutgers.

Sunday’s game against Indiana will be the toughest.

But Izzo believes his team is still in good shape after nearly erasing an 18-point deficit against Purdue.

Slam dunks

Senior Colby Wollenman was named to the Capital One Academic All-District 5 team. The forward owns a 3.98 overall GPA as a physiology (pre-med) major. First-team Academic All-District honorees advance to the Capital One Academic All-America Team ballot, where first-, second- and third-team All-America honorees will be selected later this month.

… Michigan State’s regular-season finale against Ohio State will start at noon March 5 at Breslin Center and be televised by ESPN.

Indiana at Michigan State

Tip-off: 1 p.m. Sunday, Breslin Center, East Lansing

TV/radio: CBS/WJR

Records: Indiana 20-5 (10-2 Big Ten), No. 8 Michigan State 20-5 (7-5)

Outlook: Michigan State has won four straight against Indiana, the last loss coming at home in 2013.