- Dick Vitale, College Basketball analyst
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There has been very little mention of the Michigan State Spartans.
Well my friends, you should NEVER underestimate Spartans head coach Tom Izzo. Once again this season he has proved his mettle, and he always has his team ready come tournament time. Izzo has established an impressive resume which includes six trips to the Final Four.
Izzo is one of just eight coaches who have been to at least six Final Fours, joining John Wooden (12), Mike Krzyzewski (11), Dean Smith (11), Roy Williams (7), Denny Crum (6), Rick Pitino (6) and Adolph Rupp (6). That is pretty good company.
This season, the Spartans have dealt with injuries galore. Despite adversity, Izzo has had his team respond in a positive way. After beating Nebraska on Saturday, Michigan State stood at 11-2 in the Big Ten and 22-4 overall.
That leaves the Spartans and Hoosiers tied atop the Big Ten standings going into Tuesday night's showdown in East Lansing.
Michigan State lost a tough one in Bloomington in the first meeting, 75-70. The Spartans had a chance at the end but fell short.
Keith Appling had a tough outing at Indiana. He played just 19 minutes due to foul trouble. He finished just 1-of-4 from the field with more fouls (5) than points (3). The team's leading scorer needs to come through on Tuesday. He has had a solid year and he must elevate his game against the Hoosiers.
Michigan State has to control the tempo of the game Tuesday, so guard play is so important. I do not see the Spartans beating Indiana in a shootout.
Izzo's club will be fired up before the large home crowd. They have the defense to create problems for a Hoosiers team that is talented offensively.
In the first matchup, Indiana had very few looks for Cody Zeller in the interior. He was 2-of-7 from the floor, and a guy with that talent has to get free for the ball to get at least 11-12 shots per game.
Another key will be the health of Victor Oladipo, who suffered an ankle injury in Saturday's win over Purdue.
This is also going to be a highlight game for yours truly. I am going to bring my camera and autograph book. I will be with the greatest basketball ambassador around, with that smile and his multi-talented skills, Earvin "Magic" Johnson.
He was the greatest ever to play for the Spartans, and he will be sitting courtside with superstar announcer Mike Tirico and yours truly. We will have a blast and I will make sure that Earvin understands that the red and white of Indiana is playing as well as the team in green!
I was not able to recruit the big fella, but I always wanted to team up with him. I finally am getting my shot.
If I could pick one player that I would have loved to coach in my career, it would have been Magic. He had such a passion and love for the game. He played with unbelievable spirit and enthusiasm and he has transferred that into the game of life.
Think about what he has achieved in becoming a giant in the business world. He has come a long way from Lansing to the big-time as head of the Dodgers as well as corporate head of shopping centers, malls and movie theaters. It is great to see a guy who was able to take the uniform off and make it in the real world.
It should be excitement galore and the Hoosiers and Spartans hook up for first place in the best conference in America this season -- the Big Ten. It will be awesome, baby with a capital A!