What a great time it is to be a Spartan fan. Michigan State football has turned it around under Coach Dantonio, the Spartans have made 5 straight bowl games, won a Big Ten title, won their first ever Legends Division crown and made it to the inaugural Big Ten Championship game. The last decade has seen the MSU hockey team win a national championship in hockey and reach the frozen four a few times.
It's the basketball program at Michigan State though, that has had the most consistent success. Under Tom Izzo, the Spartans have been to 6 final fours, 2 national championships, winning one. We'll look back at the past 13 seasons for Tom Izzo and rank them in order of success.
The best part about being a Spartan fan is that going to the NCAA tournament as a #10 seed is the "worst" season over the past twelve years. Some programs would consider a #10 seed tournament bid the most successful season over the last #12 years. Spartans fans are lucky to have such a great coach in Izzo.
The 2010-2011 season saw one of the most anticipated seasons for MSU basketball. Ranked #2 nationally at the beginning of the season, most experts and fans expected MSU to be in the national championship game at the end of the year.
So what caused the Spartans to slide all the way to a 10 seed?
This was the worst drama-filled season ever for Tom Izzo. Izzo himself started it when he went back and forth between leaving for the Cleveland Cavaliers job and staying with the Spartans. G Chris Allen then was kicked off the team before the season started because he could not follow Izzo's summer instructions to be a good teammate on and off the court.
C Tom Herzog transferred due to lack of playing time. C Derrick Nix left the team for a period of time to think about transferring after lack of playing time. Mid-way through the season G Korie Lucious was kicked off the team. Seniors Durrell Summers and Kalin Lucas were a little bit too concerned over their individual roles rather than the team. Draymond Green was the most vocal leader on the team but not everyone wanted to hear him. The 2010-2011 Spartans sound more like a soap opera than a basketball team.
Early season losses to Connecticut, #1 Duke, #7 Syracuse, and #22 Texas eroded the Spartans confidence, which was everything to this team, especially Durrell Summers.
The Spartans rallied late in the season to make the tournament.
Key Players: Kalin Lucas, Durrell Summers, Delvon Roe, Draymond Green, Keith Appling, Adreian Payne, Derrick Nix, Garrick Sherman, Austin Thornton, and Mike Kebler.
Low Point: All the drama, losing to Michigan twice.
High Point: Crushing #9 Purdue in the Big Ten tournament 74-56 to cement the Spartans tournament bid.
Moment To Remember: Rallying to beat #21 Wisconsin in OT in the final minutes.
Final Record: 19-15, #10 seed, first round loss to #7 UCLA 76-78.
2003-2004 saw a deep team that had a ton of talent, but couldn't put it together. These Spartans could not beat a ranked team. Every chance they had fell short. Losses to #6 Kansas, #6 Duke, #14 Oklahoma, #8 Kentucky, #17 Syracuse, #21 Wisconsin, #23 Purdue, #17 Wisconsin, and for a third time that season, #10 Wisconsin were key letdowns.
Beating a ranked team would have done wonders for the 2003-2004 Spartans. Similar to the 2010-2011 Spartans, a confidence boost would have been welcome.
Key Players: Kelvin Torbert, Chris Hill, Tim Bograkos, Alan Anderson, Maurice Ager, Paul Davis, Matt Trannon, Delco Rowley, Drew Naymick, and Shannon Brown.
Low Point: Not beating a ranked team, losing to #10 seed Nevada after blowing a nine point half time lead.
High Point: Sweeping Michigan, beating Ohio State by 14 at Ohio State.
Moment To Remember: Paul Davis hitting two free throws with less than 15 seconds left at Minnesota to win 79-78.
Final Record: 18-12, lost to #10 Nevada 66-72, in the first round as the #7 seed.
The 2001-2002 Spartans very well could have won the national championship... if Zach Randolph and Jason Richardson didn't leave school early to turn pro. The team was left without a lot of talent after that duo left. One thing this team did do was play tough. It played arguably it's best ball against the toughest teams in the nation–the Spartans crushed #6 Arizona by 14, and beat 3 Big Ten schools that were ranked. Even in the losses to ranked teams, the Spartans played it close. This was also one of the youngest teams Izzo has ever had.
Key Players: Alan Anderson, Aloysius Anagonye, Adam Ballinger, Tim Bograkos, Chris Hill, Marcus Taylor, and Kelvin Torbert.
Low Point: Randolph and Richardson leave early to pursue NBA dreams, leaving team talent depleted. Blow 12 point lead at half to NC State to lose tournament game.
High Point: Beating #6 Arizona by 14, winning the only meeting against Michigan by 27.
Moment To Remember: Marcus Taylor drops 34 points in last home game of the season to beat Iowa.
Final Record: 19-12, lost to #7 North Carolina State 69-58 in first round.
The 2005-2006 season started bad right away when the Spartans lost to Hawaii. The 2005-2006 team started to get it going after a few games and had a nice winning streak of 11 games. After that winning streak ended, so did the Spartans' hopes of a great season. They lost two games in a row 4 times after their winning streak. This year had such a great group of seniors but they went out on a bad note, much like the 2010 class.
Key Players: Maurice Ager, Paul Davis, Drew Naymick, Delco Rowley, Matt Trannon, Shannon Brown, Marquise Gray, Idong Ibok, Travis Walton, Goran Suton, Drew Neitzel, and Maurice Joseph.
Low Point: Goran Suton missing the game winning lay-up against Gonzaga. Losing to George Mason hurt, but they made it to the Final Four in one of the greatest Cinderella runs ever.
High Point: Beating #9 Indiana, and #9 Illinois.
Moment To Remember: Maurice Ager scoring 36 in that EPIC duel against Adam Morrison and Gonzaga. Ager was hitting threes 10 feet beyond the arc. Another moment would be any of Shannon Brown's dunks.
Final Record: 22-12, lost to #11 George Mason in the first round as a #6 seed 75-65.
2006-2007 saw one of the streakiest Spartan teams in recent memory. They would win 5 in a row, then lose 3. This was a common occurrence throughout the season. The Spartans really only had one scoring option during the season and that was Drew Neitzel. Shut him down, and the team went down as well. Regardless of the result, it was always fun to watch Neitzel. This team had one senior, and one junior. The rest were freshmen and sophomores.
Key Players: Drew Neitzel, Drew Naymick, Marquise Gray, Idong Ibok, Maurice Joseph, Goran Suton, Travis Walton, Raymar Morgan and Isaiah Dahlman.
Low Points: Getting crushed at Purdue 38-62.
High Points: Neitzel's lay up with 3 seconds left to beat #19 Texas in Madison Square Garden. Beating #1 ranked Wisconsin at the Breslin Center.
Moment To Remember: Drew Neitzel going crazy after hitting 3 after 3 to beat #1 Wisconsin.
Final Record: 23-12, lost in 2nd round as #9 seed to #1 North Carolina 67-81.
A team that starts 19-2 should have a pretty awesome season, right? Well, it looked like it was going to be an awesome season with that start but problems started piling up. One awkward problem was the passing of the torch from Drew Neitzel to Kalin Lucas. It was tough for these two to share the ball and it looked like they had trouble deciding who should shoot and who should pass. Neitzel was still the leader of this team.
Key Players: Drew Neitzel, Drew Naymick, Marquise Gray, Idong Ibok, Goran Suton, Travis Walton, Isaiah Dahlman, Raymar Morgan, Kalin Lucas, Durrell Summers, Chris Allen, Austin Thornton, and Tom Herzog.
Low Points: Scoring 36 against Iowa....total.
High Points: Beating #4 Texas at the Palace, getting to the Sweet 16.
Moment To Remember: Durrell Summers hitting a 3 to put MSU ahead of Texas in the final seconds.
Final Record: 27-9, lost to #1 Memphis as 5 seed in Sweet 16 74-92.
2002-2003 was one of the most pleasant surprises. Halfway through the season, it looked like MSU wasn't going to make the tournament. Losses to Toledo and Michigan were stains on the season but MSU was able to turn it around for the last stretch of the season. They won 5 in a row and lost their last game by 1 to Ohio State. The turnaround was one of the most complete team efforts under Izzo. Almost every starter for the Spartans scored in double figures during the last 5 games. That trend continued in the NCAA tournament, when an under the radar MSU team advanced to the Elite 8.
Key Players: Aloysius Anagonye, Adam Ballinger, Alan Anderson, Tim Bograkos, Chris Hill, Kelvin Torbert, Paul Davis, Maurice Ager, and Erazem Lorbek.
Low Points: Losing to Toledo was awful.
High Points: Taking an underrated team to the Elite Eight. Beating #12 Kentucky at Rupp Arena.
Moment To Remember: Tim Bograkos hitting a jumper to seal the win against Kentucky.
Final Record: 22-13, Lost to #1 Texas as the #7 seed in the Elite Eight, 76-85.
After winning the national championship the year before, the 2000-2001 Spartans had a lot to live up to. They accepted the challenge and made their way to a 3rd straight Final Four. This team was rich with NBA ready talent–Zach Randolph was a beast and Jason Richardson dunked over anything. The leadership and shut down defense of Charlie Bell helped a lot too. This led to a great season and the team looked unstoppable during the first half.
Key Players: Charlie Bell, Andre Hutson, Mike Chappell, Adam Ballinger, Aloysius Anagonye, Jason Richardson, Zach Randolph, and Marcus Taylor.
Low Point: Playing so poorly against Arizona in the Final Four.
High Points: Reaching the Final Four for a 3rd straight year, winning the Big Ten conference for a 4th straight year.
Moment To Remember: Any Jason Richardson dunk. This guy was incredible. He went on to win the NBA dunk contest back to back.
Final Record: 28-5, Lost to #2 Arizona in the Final Four as a #1 seed, 61-80.
This season was another surprise, in both good and bad ways. The team was good enough to push to the Elite Eight but it had problems during the regular season, much like most Spartan teams. Kalin Lucas was coming off last season as Big Ten player of the year, so he had a lot of pressure. The team came together for a Big Ten championship and another Final Four run, after advancing to the National Championship game a year earlier.
During the NCAA tournament it was probably the hardest stretch of games to watch as a Spartan fan with every game being so close and coming down to the last second. Lots of heart problems probably followed for the fans. In the second game, Lucas went down to a torn achilles and the team rallied around back up guard Korie Lucious where he flourished. No one thought this team was going to the Final Four without Lucas and the Spartans proved everyone wrong. Durrell Summers caught fire and put the team on his back.
Key Players: Raymar Morgan, Isaiah Dahlman, Kalin Lucas, Durrell Summers, Chris Allen, Tom Herzog, Mike Kebler, Draymond Green, Korie Lucious, Delvon Roe, Austin Thornton, Derrick Nix and Garrick Sherman.
Low Points: Kalin Lucas blowing out his Achilles and Butler winning by 2 in the Final Four after a no foul call.
High Points: Winning the Big Ten in back to back years, reaching another Final Four. Durrell Summers catching fire during the tournament.
Moment To Remember: Chris Allen's insane dunk against Northwestern. Kalin Lucas beating Michigan at the buzzer to win, and Korie Lucious hitting the game winning 3 at the buzzer against Maryland in the 2nd round. Go to YouTube and watch it. NOW.
Final Record: 28-9, Lost to #5 Butler in the Final Four as a #5 seed, 50-52.
2004-2005 was the year that the underachieving class of 2006 finally came together and put all that talent to good use. This team had so much talent but it seemed as if nobody knew when to pass or when to shoot the ball. The team got their act together for one of the greatest NCAA tournament runs. They were the first team in the history of the NCAA to beat Kentucky and Duke back to back. It was really satisfying to see this well deserving class. It was also the first year Spartan fans saw Drew Neitzel. In the tournament, Michigan State played one of the greatest games ever against Kentucky, winning in double OT.
Key Players: Chris Hill, Alan Anderson, Tim Bograkos, Kelvin Torbert, Maurice Ager, Paul Davis, Shannon Brown, Drew Naymick, Delco Rowley, Matt Trannon, and Drew Neitzel,
Low Points: Being criticized by the media constantly for being an underachieving team. Losing to George Washington.
High Points: Beating Kentucky and Duke back to back.
Moment To Remember: Maurice Ager's dunk over Duke guard J.J. Reddick. It was disgusting.
Final Record: 26-7, Lost to #1 North Carolina in Final Four as a 5 seed, 71-87.
The Flintstones arrive.
This team won 22 games in a row. That is incredible. This was the first year Tom Izzo led his team to the Final Four. Antonio Smith was one of the first players Izzo recruited. Smith did it all his senior season, with scoring, rebounds, and steals. He set the tone for future Spartans to go to "war" on the boards. Michigan State became a force on the glass after Smith left the program. Smith was also a leader to the most talented duo under Tom Izzo, Mateen Cleaves and Morris Peterson.
Key Players: Antonio Smith, Jason Klein, Mateen Cleaves, Morris Peterson, A.J. Granger, Charlie Bell, Andre Hutson. Steve Cherry, and Adam Ballinger.
Low Point: There weren't too many, every loss was to a ranked opponent. #24 Wisconsin beat MSU at Wisconsin by over 10 points.
High Points: Izzo reaches his first Final Four. MSU wins the Big Ten tournament, and becomes Big Ten Champions.
Moment To Remember: Izzo cutting down his first Final Four net.
What a special season this was for MSU. The seniors didn't want to become the first class under Izzo to not reach the Final Four. Their will led them all the way to the National Championship. Kalin Lucas as a sophomore won Big Ten player of the year. Travis Walton directed this team as the defensive leader and Goran Suton, the guy everyone hated for losing the Gonzaga game as a freshmen, became a fan favorite after one of the greatest senior seasons. The Final Four was in Detroit and Izzo hounded his players all year long to be playing in their own backyard, many of them from Detroit.
Key Players: Goran Suton, Travis Walton, Idong Ibok, Marquise Gray, Isaiah Dahlman, Raymar Morgan, Durrell Summers, Kalin Lucas, Chris Allen, Tom Herzog, Korie Lucious, Delvon Roe, Draymond Green, and Austin Thornton.
Low Points: Bad losses to Northwestern, and Penn State. Getting blown out by North Carolina twice.
High Points: Kalin Lucas Big Ten player of the year, Big Ten Champs, reaching the National Championship game in Detroit.
Moment To Remember: Durrell Summers dunks over Stanley Robinson in the Final Four. It's my favorite dunk of all time and Gus Johnson is the play caller. Quote from Jim Nantz "Ford Field is shaking". Gives me goosebumps.
Final Record: 31-7, Lost to #1 North Carolina in the National Championship as a #2 seed, 72-89.
This season was made before it started. Mateen Cleaves and Morris Peterson had a chance to turn pro after their junior years. They were not satisfied with just a Final Four appearance. Mateen Cleaves wanted to hear "One Shining Moment" at the end of his senior year. They came back and achieved just that. Izzo and Mateen embraced in tears, looked up and saw the highlights of their season to "One Shining Moment". Their record could have been better but Mateen hurt his ankle early on in the season, foreshadowing of what would happen in the National Championship.
One of my favorite quotes from Tom Izzo is when he talked about when Mateen hurt his ankle in the National Championship, Izzo said. "Mateen says coach, I think my ankle is broken." Izzo responded and said "Well that's *ucking great, but you have 10 minutes left to play." Cleaves came back 5 minutes later to help seal the Championship.
Key Players: Mateen Cleaves, Morris Peterson, A.J. Granger, Charlie Bell, Andre Hutson, Mike Chappell, Steve Cherry, Adam Ballinger, Jason Richardson, and Aloysius Anagonye.
Low Points: Losing to Wright State.
High Points: Cleaves becomes an 3 time All-American, 2 time Big Ten Player of the year, Most Outstanding player of the NCAA tournament, against Michigan on senior night Mateen Cleaves shatters the MSU and Big Ten record for most assists in a game with 20. The 114-63 win also marks the largest victory ever by a Big Ten school against another. Big Ten conference and tournament champs.
Moment To Remember: YouTube "One Shining Moment Mateen Cleaves". Just about any video will do. He wanted to hear it so bad and to see him and Izzo looking up while it's playing was special.
Final Record: 32-7, Won the National Championship as a #1 seed against #5 Florida, 89-76.