Top Five NCAA Tournament Games in Michigan State History

Tony MeyerAnalyst IMarch 2, 2009

With the calendar flipping from February into March, there is one thing on the minds of college basketball fans: March Madness.

Each of the past 11 years, Michigan State has had its name called on Selection Sunday, and the 2008-2009 Spartans are not going to break that tradition.  

Michigan State has become synonymous with March Madness in recent history, and the Spartans have developed a tradition in March.  They have appeared in 22 NCAA Tournaments and reached the Final Four six times.  

MSU has been involved in some very enticing and thrilling games, and here of five of the very best.

5. Michigan State-Maryland, 2003 Sweet 16

Maryland was the defending champions when Michigan State met them in the Sweet 16 in 2003.  Maryland rolled in with a veteran squad that featured Steve Blake, Drew Nicholas, and Taj Holden.  

Michigan State was the No. 7 seed and came in with a talented team that featured Chris Hill, Alan Anderson, Maurice Ager, and a young Paul Davis, still a freshman.  

This was a hard fought game that went down to the wire.  The game was tied at 58 when Davis hit a fall-away with 4.7 seconds left to put MSU up 60-58.  Blake missed a desperation shot at the buzzer and MSU was on its way to the Elite Eight.

4. Michigan State-Georgia Tech, 1990 Sweet 16

The Steve Smith-led Spartans rolled into the round of 16 with the No. 1 seed to face the No. 4 seeded Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, and they left with a bitter taste in their mouths.

Georgia Tech featured two prolific scorers in Dennis Scott and Kenny Anderson, while Steve Smith and Mike Peplowski led the Spartans.

In a back-and-forth game, MSU had the lead 75-73 with six seconds left and Steve Smith at the line.  Game over, right?  Not exactly.  Smith missed and Kenny Anderson capitalized with a foot-on-the-line two-pointer to send the game into overtime.

In overtime, Dennis Scott hit a leaner with four seconds left to win the game for the Yellow Jackets and send them to the Elite Eight.

3. Michigan State-Iowa State, 2000 Elite Eight

While Larry Eustachy wasn't busy partying it up with co-eds, he was leading the Cyclones to a No. 2 seed and a meeting with the mighty Spartans.  

Iowa State was in control most of this game, using big Marcus Fizer to control the paint.  The Cyclones led 64-61 with seven minutes remaining, and they only managed a measly three points the rest of the game.

MSU took the game over down the stretch with their defense, frustrating Fizer and the Cyclones, and frustrating Eustachy even more, forcing him to the showers early with two technical fouls.  Michigan State prevailed 75-64 in a physical, nail-biting thriller.

Andre Hutson finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds, and the Spartans parlayed this win and used the momentum to win the 2000 NCAA Championship, with Mateen Cleaves winning the tournament's Most Outstanding Player.  

2. Michigan State-Kentucky, 2005 Elite Eight

This game had it all—excitement, controversy, intrigue, you name it!  The Spartans were the No. 5 seed when they met the No. 2 seeded Kentucky Wildcats.  

This was a back-and-forth game as well, and with 20 seconds left Shannon Brown hit two free throws to put the Spartans up by three.  Kentucky then got the ball into Patrick Sparks' hands and he hit a shot that will be remembered for a long, long time. 

Sparks heaved a three-pointer from the top of the key that rattled around the rim for about six minutes and eventually fell into the hoop.  But was it a three?  The officials looked at this play for 10 minutes to decide whether or not his foot was on the line. They finally determined that the shot was indeed a three, and the game was sent into overtime. 

One overtime, however, was not enough.  The Spartans finally won this marathon in the second overtime, 94-88.  Shannon Brown finished with 24, and Maurice Ager had 21 to send the Spartans to yet another Final Four appearance.

1. Michigan State-Indiana State, 1979 National Championship Game

In one of the most memorable college basketball games not just in Michigan State history but NCAA history, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird faced off in a matchup for the ages.

Bird brought the Sycamores and their 33-0 record into this game against the No. 2-seeded Spartans.  

While this game was dubbed Magic against Bird, a different player decided this game. Greg Kelser, the Robin to Magic's Batman, shut down Larry Bird, holding him to 7-for-21 shooting from the field.  

Magic Johnson added 24 points to vault the Spartans to a 75-64 win and their first National Championship.  Magic also collected the tournament's Most Outstanding Player award. 

So there are some of the great games in MSU basketball history.  Hopefully, this year the Spartans will be able to make some new history and get back to the Final Four, where they rightly belong


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