Mar 21, 2024 - Sports

Underachieving Spartans get a fresh start in NCAA Tournament

Michigan State's Tyson Walker shoots against Iowa in February.

Michigan State's Tyson Walker shoots against Iowa in February. Photo: Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images

Michigan State's chance to rediscover its March magic and salvage the season starts Thursday.

The big picture: The Spartans' struggles have confounded fans who expected them to compete for a national championship.

  • A quick tournament exit could start to tarnish Tom Izzo's reputation as a first-rate NCAA Tournament coach.

What they're saying: "Everybody knows that we underachieved," veteran forward Malik Hall told the Free Press.

  • "We all know it. We also know we can completely right that situation."

Driving the news: MSU's first tournament game, against eighth-seeded Mississippi State (21-13, 10-11 SEC), is at 12:15pm in Charlotte.

  • CBS is broadcasting.

Catch up quick: MSU (19-14, 11-11 Big Ten) lost four of its last five regular-season games before falling to Purdue last week in the Big Ten Tournament.

  • Sharpshooter Tyson Walker leads an experienced backcourt with 18.2 points per game on 37.3% shooting from three-point range.

Fun fact: This is MSU's 26th straight NCAA Tournament under Izzo, the third-longest streak in men's college basketball history.

Between the lines: Mississippi State is a physical team that plays tough defense, the Detroit News reports.

  • Freshman guard Josh Hubbard has averaged 20.1 points per game since becoming a starter.
  • Senior Tolu Smith — 6-feet-11, 245 pounds and scoring 15 points per game — will be a difficult assignment for MSU's bigs.

What's next: If they beat the Bulldogs, the Spartans will likely play No. 1 seed North Carolina on Saturday.

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