Sunday March 29th, 2015

At many points this season—an overtime loss at home to Texas Southern on Dec. 20, a loss at Nebraska on Jan. 24—Michigan State didn't look like a Final Four team. But you can't ever bet against Tom Izzo in March. 

The No. 7 Spartans continued their amazing NCAA tournament run on Sunday, knocking off No. 4 Louisville and earning a trip to the Final Four with a 76-70 win in overtime. Travis Trice led the Spartans with 17 points, while Denzel Valentine had 15 and Bryn Forbes poured in 14. For the seventh time under Izzo, the Spartans will be on college basketball’s grandest stage.

Michigan State headed into the locker room at halftime trailing 40-32 after Louisville closed out the half on an 8-2 run. The Spartans scored nine of the first 11 points of the second half, and the game was played within a 10-point window the rest of the way. Trailing by four points with just less than 10 minutes left, the Spartans went on a 10-0 run, highlighted by threes from Forbes and Trice. At that point, it looked like the Spartans might pull away.

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Louisville, however, punched right back behind senior Wayne Blackshear. He had seven points in the final two minutes of the game, helping the Cardinals rally from a four-point deficit of their own to get back within one with just 12 seconds left. Mangok Mathiang, a 48% free-throw shooter, rattled in one of two attempts from the charity stripe after getting fouled on Louisville’s last possession, sending the game to overtime.

From that point forward, it was all Michigan State. Forbes hit a three on the first possession of the extra period, and the Spartans never trailed in the final five minutes. In fact, once the Spartans went up by four three possessions later, Louisville never had the ball with a chance to tie for the rest of the game.

Unlike most of Izzo’s Final Four teams, this version of the Spartans will be viewed as a serious underdog to win the championship. At the same time, they weren’t supposed to be in this spot at all. We know not to doubt Izzo in March. We’ll learn in a week if that applies to April, as well.

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