Michigan State set to earn 25th consecutive NCAA Tournament berth

CHICAGO – Michigan State left the United Center disheartened on Friday afternoon after a first-game exit to Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals. But it can take heart in this:

The Spartans’ Big Ten Tournament result has often had little correlation with its NCAA Tournament success.

Of Michigan State’s last four trips to the Final Four, two have come after runs to the Big Ten Tournament finals and two have come after first-game exits. In 2019 and 2015, the Spartans made it to Sunday in the conference tournament, then to the final weekend of the NCAA Tournament. But in 2005 and 2010, the Spartans lasted only one game in the conference tournament but then proceeded to still make surprise runs through the NCAA Tournament field.

The Spartans will now try to accomplish another long NCAA Tournament run after a short Big Ten Tournament run this week.

Michigan State will learn its draw in the 2023 NCAA Tournament when the field is unveiled during the selection show on 6 p.m. at CBS. It will open the tournament with a first-round game on Thursday or Friday.

Michigan State assured itself an at-large berth with a 19-win regular season while playing one of the toughest schedules in major conference basketball.

The Spartans’ appearance will mark their 25th straight in the NCAA Tournament, marking the second-longest active streak behind only Kansas. The tournament berth will also give Tom Izzo his 25th straight as the Spartans’ head coach and give him the most consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances of any coach in the sport’s history. Izzo is currently tied with former Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski with 24.

Michigan State won’t be favored to make a long run in the tournament, though. The Spartans are currently slotted in most projections as a No. 7 seed, the same as at the start of the week. But its loss to Ohio State and the movement around it has moved Michigan State closer to the No. 8 line than the No. 6 line in the past week – raising the prospects of an opening-weekend matchup with a tournament No. 1 seed.

Michigan State’s thoughts on Friday afternoon, though, weren’t on its impending draw. It was on improving on one of its worst performances in weeks against Ohio State – knowing that another such performance will likely end its season.

“Today we didn’t come ready to play, but we’ve got a second chance in the tournament to turn things around,” Spartans guard Jaden Akins said. “We just know we’ve got to put our all into that and make this run.”

Michigan State’s performance against the Buckeyes marked its worst on offense in more than a month, as the Spartans shot 3-for-16 from 3-point range. Izzo has also implored his team to find its defensive form from earlier this season. The Spartans left Chicago last week knowing they will have one more chance to do so.

“We’ve got to turn around and focus our efforts on the NCAA Tournament because it’s one-and-done for real then that time,” Spartans forward Joey Hauser said.

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