|Michigan St. looks for Big Ten crown, No. 1 seed|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 11 March 2009 09:22|
Just to be considered, coach Tom Izzo believes the Spartans must win the Big Ten tournament starting Thursday at Conseco Fieldhouse.
``I would hope we are a No. 2 seed,'' Izzo said. ``If not for Michigan State, I think the conference deserves that. The only way I think we could be a 1 is if we win our tournament, and some people would have to falter a little bit.''
Seventh-ranked Michigan State's cause could be strengthened by the Big Ten's non-conference success. Michigan State won at Texas, Purdue beat Davidson, Michigan defeated Duke and UCLA, Illinois won at Missouri, Ohio State beat Butler and Minnesota defeated Louisville.
``This year, we have the marquee wins - you can go down the line with each team - they seem to have the wins and the quality schedule and so forth,'' Illinois coach Bruce Weber said.
``If we didn't get six, I'd be very disappointed,'' he said. ``If things would work out, I think we can get seven. Really, nine teams probably deserve some consideration.''
Izzo said the Big Ten has been underrated, and he's grown tired of feeling like he has to defend it.
``I think I'm a pretty good judge of what's great and what's not,'' Izzo said. ``I get so annoyed with hearing how great every other conference is.''
Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan feels it's disrespectful to suggest the Big Ten isn't an elite league.
``We are who we are, and the body of work speaks for itself,'' he said. ``I think there ought to be people out there that are smart enough to realize that.''
Michigan State (25-5), which features conference player of the year Kalin Lucas and defensive player of the year Travis Walton, will play the winner of Thursday's matchup between No. 8 seed Minnesota (21-9) and No. 9 Northwestern (17-12) on Friday. Northwestern earned its way into thinking about an NCAA bid by winning at 24th-ranked Purdue last week.
Izzo expects a challenge from the winner.
``Minnesota has a lot of depth and Northwestern might be playing as good a basketball as any team in our league and just fallen a little short in a couple of games,'' Izzo said.
Northwestern coach Bill Carmody believes the tournament bracket gives his team a chance to get its first NCAA bid, even if it doesn't win the tournament.
``In some ways, it's a real nice opportunity because Minnesota's a very good team, and then the winner of that game plays Michigan State,'' Carmody said. ``So that would be two quality wins if we were to win those two games. I think that would more than catch the eye of the committee.''
Sixth-seeded Penn State (21-10) will play 11th-seeded Indiana (6-24) on Thursday, with the winner playing third-seeded Purdue on Friday. Seventh-seeded Michigan (19-12) will play Iowa (15-16), with the winner playing second-seeded Illinois (23-8).
Weber is wary because his team reached the final last season as a No. 10 seed.
One Friday matchup already set is fourth-seeded Wisconsin (19-11) against Ohio State (20-9). Wisconsin at one point lost six consecutive conference games, but rallied to win seven of their final nine games.
Izzo said Purdue would have a better record had forward Robbie Hummel been healthy all season. The Big Ten preseason player of the year missed several games with a hairline fracture in his lower back.
``Let's face it, their best player has not been healthy,'' Izzo said. ``Matt (Painter) has done an unbelievable job with them over the year.''
All the teams except Iowa and Indiana might be able to get NCAA bids without winning the conference tournament.
``It's about as wide open as it's ever been since the tournament started,'' Izzo said, ``and I think legitimately, there's a ton of teams that have a chance to win it.''