WASHINGTON (WOOD) — There are few things more synonymous with spring in America: cherry blossoms at the Capitol and basketball knocking on April’s nets.
Both are in full bloom in Washington D.C. this week.
Michigan State University is back to the Sweet 16 for the first time in four years. Three straight early exits plagued the Spartans — but this year, they won the weekend.
“I always think it’s game by game, but once we won the whole thing (2000 National Championship) I haven’t changed my philosophy on the weekend a lot,” MSU head coach Tom Izzo said about his motto to win the weekend. “You just don’t talk about it a lot because people think you’re looking past somebody. It’s what you have to do as a coach.“
Inside the Spartans’ locker room, it’s evident that motto does not have them looking past Friday’s opponent: Louisiana State University.
“They’re a tough team, you know, and we know we have to be ready for them, but coach is always thinking big picture,” senior Matt McQuid said.
Grand Rapids native and sophomore forward Xavier Tillman added that it was those three years that spurred the new mentality.
“When I first heard it, it was kind of like, ‘Are we overpassing the first team that we play?’ But he said, after he said it he mentioned, in order to win the weekend you have to win the first game,” Tillman said. “Our whole thing was, not getting past the first weekend for those three years, he was sick of it, he’s like, ‘Our goal now is to win the weekend, because we’re going to win the first games.’”
After surviving a scare against Bradley in the opening game, the Spartans beat a familiar Big Ten team in Minnesota rather handily. It was a weight of pressure off the shoulders of a team whose green and white has become expectation in the Sweet 16.
“We’re feeling really confident, we’re in different territory,” said Big Ten Player of the Year Cassius Winston. “I think there’s only one guy that’s been at this point, and that’s Kenny.”
“I think just the maturity, experience, what we’ve been through,” Kenny Goins responded when asked what was different for this year’s team. “And being able to learn from that and just moving forward and knowing that it’s a new year, new team.”
A new team ready to win the weekend, one game at a time.
Michigan State’s Tom Izzo is making his 14th appearance in 24 seasons. The second-seeded Spartans tip off against the third-seeded LSU Tigers at 7:09 p.m. at the Capital One Arena in Washington D.C.
The only other time these two teams have met was in the Sweet 16 back in 1979. Michigan State was the no. 2 seed and LSU was the no. 3 seed. Michigan State won and went on to win the first national championship in school history.