Iowa-Michigan St. Preview
Michigan State still has a shot at a No. 1 seed in the NCAA
tournament if it can forget about a bitter finish to the regular
season and overcome a season-ending injury to its star
The eighth-ranked and top-seeded Spartans will try to help their
cause by winning their first Big Ten tournament title since 2000.
The push to end that drought begins Friday against ninth-seeded
Iowa at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
Michigan State (24-7) was denied its first outright Big Ten
regular-season title in three years when Ohio State’s William
Buford hit a last-second shot to give the Buckeyes a 72-70 win in
East Lansing on Sunday. The Spartans, who also fell at then-No. 18
Indiana on Feb. 28, had an early 15-point lead against Ohio State
but wilted after Branden Dawson tore a ligament in his left
The freshman swingman will likely need six months to recover
Despite the consecutive losses, Michigan State won a piece of
its third regular-season championship in four years, sharing the
crown with Ohio State and Michigan. Winning more titles, however,
could prove difficult without Dawson, the team’s third-leading
scorer (8.4 ppg) and second-best rebounder (4.5 per contest).
“We’ll miss the size and the strength,” coach Tom Izzo said of
the Indiana native. “But we’ll adapt in other ways. I still think
this team has a chance to make a strong run.”
Senior Brandon Wood, averaging 8.2 points, might start in place
of Dawson. Freshmen Travis Trice, Brandan Kearney and Russell Byrd
could also see more playing time.
Izzo might also adjust his lineup to put centers Derrick Nix and
Adreian Payne on the court with conference player of the year
“It’ll give somebody else an opportunity,” Izzo said. “Who knows
who else might step up?”
He’ll get a chance to find out against the Hawkeyes, who
advanced to the quarterfinals by rallying for a 64-61 win over
Illinois on Thursday. Leading scorer Matt Gatens (15.7 ppg) led the
way with 20 points in that victory and is averaging 23.0 over the
last six games while shooting 54.9 percent.
“I don’t want to go home,” said Gatens, who has also made 34 of
his last 58 3-point attempts. “I want to keep playing, and I don’t
want to take this uniform off. And I think all the guys feel the
The senior guard and his teammates will need a much better
performance than what they showed during a 95-61 drubbing in East
Lansing on Jan. 10. Green had 22 points and 10 rebounds in that
victory and also shined in last season’s tournament opener against
He had 21 points and 14 rebounds, the most by a Michigan State
player in a conference tournament game, during a 66-61 win. Gatens
missed a potential tying 3-pointer with six seconds left as the
Hawkeyes lost their third straight and eighth of nine in the
Michigan State is 7-7 when the Big Ten tournament has been held
in Indianapolis, but has won five of its seven all-time
quarterfinal games there.