The Big Ten already knows about Michigan State, and starting in 2014-15, Maryland and Rutgers will get to know the Spartans, who, regardless of circumstance or personnel, always seem to be among title favorites come March.
That’s probably because of their coach, Tom Izzo, who’s been to six Final Fours and knows what it’s like to cut down nets after winning it all. It wasn’t a championship-clincher, but the Spartans and Terps have a history that should fuel them during Big Ten play.
In 2010, Michigan State would have been eliminated from the Sweet 16 had it not been for Korie Lucious’ miraculous three-pointer that toppled coach Gary Williams’ squad, 85-83. As a matter of fact, that moment remains as one of Izzo’s trademark accomplishments.
Times have changed; Williams retired in 2011, and Mark Turgeon is three years into his residence as Maryland’s front man. But college basketball doesn’t forget, and the Spartans will most certainly remember 2010 for as long as Izzo stalks the sidelines.
As for Rutgers, well, when it comes to getting to know someone or something, there is no better time than the present. Eddie Jordan enters his second year as coach, and his Scarlet Knights should benefit from engaging with Mr. March on a regular basis.
It’s sort of a role reversal: Izzo gets Kansas and North Carolina on the schedule, Jordan gets the Spartans by virtue of league affiliation—no extra work needed. In the end, those scrums should push Jordan’s team closer to the NCAA Tournament. Rutgers hasn’t received an invite since 1991, so it’s on the opposite end of Maryland, a spring regular.
The following table should come in handy when it's time for head-to-head comparison.
|Izzo's Spartans Are Impressive|
|Championships||1979, 2000||2002||Final Four 1976|
|Tourney Appearances||28 (17 straight)||23 (1988*)||6|
|Conference Titles (RS)||13||6||0|
|NBA Players (current)||38 (3)||38 (2)||10 (1)|
|Players in NBA prior to 2014 draft; NBA.com, Sports-Reference.com, official team sites/athletic records|
Players of Interest
By now, you know which Spartans to watch: Denzel Valentine, Travis Trice, Branden Dawson and Matt Costello. Plus the recruits, and the bench...OK, so everyone. The Spartans, per 247Sports, have the No. 48 class of 2014.
We'll make the rest of this short and sweet.
Maryland: Dez Wells (G/F), Jake Layman (G/F) and Seth Allen (G). Also, keep an eye on the Terps' upcoming class, which is ranked No. 12 in the nation by 247Sports. With Melo Trimble leading the way, it has a lot of upside.
Rutgers: The pair of Myles Mack and Kadeem Jack was made for sports. They are the rhyme and reason for the Scarlet Knights, who have the No. 73-ranked recruiting class of 2014, per 247Sports.
Earlier in May, the Big Ten announced that it would spread out east by allowing the Verizon Center in Washington host the conference tournament in 2017. That’s not exactly groundbreaking news. Really, it kind of shafts the core conglomerate—the Midwesterners who grew up on Big Ten hoops; the people who shouldn’t have to travel to the Eastern Seaboard to see their teams play in the conference postseason…
But that’s another fight for another day.
It’s time to refocus on the issue, which is exposure. By jumping over to The District, the league will have the opportunity to showcase itself to another basketball-loving area of the country.
Sure, it’s a smack in the face for those in Wisconsin, Nebraska and Iowa, but it’s for the betterment of the Big Ten brand. And for Michigan State, it’ll probably help land some of the best from along the Atlantic. In all likelihood, that should also boost Maryland and Rutgers' pull.
Kevin Andersen, Maryland’s Director of Athletics, had the following to say about the decision to play at the home of the Washington Wizards (via BigTen.org):
We're very excited the Big Ten Conference has selected our nation's capital as the site for the 2017 Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament. This is yet another example of the Big Ten's commitment to our region and provides fans of Maryland and all conference teams on the East Coast easier access to enjoy this outstanding event.
David Touhey, senior vice president and GM of the Verizon Center, also applauded the league's expanded reach (via BigTen.org):
We are looking forward to and are honored to host the Big Ten Tournament here in Washington, D.C. for the very first time. The excitement that surrounds this conference event is unparalleled and with Maryland becoming a part of the fold officially next season, the tournament is sure to have some added local flair here in the nation's capital.
Spartans and Terps in DC?! Yes, please.
Sure, they’re not Williams’ Terps, but imagine the possibilities. They have three years to get good, put it that way. On a smaller scale, the Scarlet Knights could rake in the gains if they were to face Izzo at the Verizon Center.
Mad for Maryland
Greivis Vasquez, Steve Francis, Juan Dixon, Joe Smith, Len Bias—Maryland has a laundry list of greats that stands up to Michigan State's roll call of Shawn Respert, Mateen Cleaves, Magic Johnson, Sam and Jay Vincent, Steve Smith and a host of others.
The traditions and calibers of players aren't identical, but they're comparable. Coming from the ACC, Maryland will undoubtedly add that "classic" feel, sooner or later, to its head-to-heads with Izzo.
This matchup, if all plays out as (I have) planned, will be a must-see for as long as the teams are aligned. That's the hope, anyway. The 2010 game comes to mind, but the Terps also have to hear about losing to Izzo during the 2003 Sweet Sixteen.
In terms of conference play, the Scarlet Knights have almost always been on the short end of the stick. They've been thrashed in the Atlantic 10, the AAC and the Big East. They haven't had a winning season since 2005-06 when coach Gary Waters X'd and O'd his way to a 19-14 record.
Just two years ago, Mike Rice, the former coach, was at the center of a media firestorm due to his ill treatment of players. The basketball team certainly deserved better. Rutgers has an uphill climb, no doubt there. Perhaps clawing its way past Michigan State a couple of times will shove the program into better light.
Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan State Spartans basketball writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81