Michigan State extends NCAA Tournament streak to with First Four seleciton

Tom Izzo’s streak lives on.

Barely.

Michigan State basketball earned its 23rd consecutive NCAA tournament berth Sunday as the No. 11 seed in the East Region, but will face fellow No. 11 seed UCLA (17-9) in a First Four matchup Thursday in Indianapolis. The winner will face No. 6 seed Brigham Young (20-6) in the first round Saturday. 

Michigan State captain Aaron Henry reacted to the announcement by tweeting: "Chances make champions." 

“Cassius (Winston) used to say that," Henry said from Indianapolis on Sunday night. "We got a chance to play basketball, we got a chance to win championships.”

Michigan State guard Joshua Langford (1) celebrates with center Mady Sissoko (22) and forward Joey Hauser (20) after defeating Michigan at Jack Breslin Student Events Center. (Photo: Tim Fuller, USA TODAY Sports)

This is the lowest seed the Spartans have received in 33 previous NCAA Tournament appearances. Their previous lowest was a No. 10 three times (1975, 2002 and 2011). Michigan State lost its first-round game each of those years.

The tournament committee revealed Spartans werethe first of the last four at-large teams into the field, followed by UCLA, Wichita State and Drake.

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Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart, chairman of the NCAA selection committee, "facetiously" hinted the panel paired the Spartans and Bruins in the First Four to generate interest.

"Well, I mean, I think that we go through our processes, and you have teams that are the last four at-larges in the field," Barnhart said. "And we worked our way through that, and that's part of how that process unfolds. We certainly scrubbed that — we go through the process of seeding, and we scrubbed it multiple times. And then we get to a spot, and where it is is where it lands.

"Two teams that we're thrilled to have in the field, and we thought it'd be a heck of a way to start the tournament off. I say that the facetiously. We're excited to get started — two great teams and great programs with lots of national championships. And so that ought to be a lot of fun."

With Duke not making the tournament, Izzo now holds the longest active NCAA streak for a coach in Division I.

One month ago, making the NCAA Tournament seemed unlikely for the Spartans. After a 6-0 non-conference start to the season that included a win at Duke, they dropped to 4-9 in the Big Ten with a Feb. 16 loss at Purdue, then four days later fell behind by 13 points in the first half at Indiana.

However, Izzo reconfigured his lineup to go small and the team rallied to victory over the Hoosiers. Izzo used that undersized look to shock No. 4 Illinois and No. 5 Ohio State in three days. They followed that with a defeat of No. 2 Michigan in the regular-season finale before losing to Maryland in the first round of the Big Ten tournament.

Henry leads the Spartans at 15.3 points per game and adds 5.7 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.3 blocks. Junior forward Joey Hauser is tied with Henry for the rebounding lead at 5.7 and is second at 9.7 points.

Izzo is 51-21 in the NCAA Tournament with eight Final Four appearances, the most recent in 2019, and the 2000 national championship. 

“We got the chance," senior captain Joshua Langford said, "now let’s go make the best of the opportunity we have.”

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