Eight of the Spartans' 10 trips to the Final Four have come under Tom Izzo. 

By Caleb Friedman
April 06, 2019

Michigan State, the lone Big Ten team remaining in the NCAA tournament, is headed to the Final Four for a 10th time.

After winning a share of the Big Ten regular season title and winning the conference tournament, the Spartans are set for a national semifinal matchup with Texas Tech. It comes as Michigan State's eighth trip to the NCAA tournament's final weekend in Tom Izzo's 23 years as head coach.

In the tournament's first weekend, Michigan State overcame a halftime deficit to get by 15-seed Bradley, before easily dispatching conference foe Minnesota by 20. The Spartans then cruised past LSU 80–63 in the Sweet 16, which set up a thrilling bout between the experienced Spartans and a young Duke team loaded with NBA talent. Ultimately, Cassius Winston and the Spartans bested Zion Williamson and the Blue Devils by one, securing another Final Four appearance for Izzo and Michigan State.

Here's how the Spartans have fared in their previous nine Final Fours.

1957

Michigan State made its first Final Four back in 1957, when the NCAA tournament featured just 23 teams. Playing in the Mideast region, Michigan State beat Notre Dame by two and Kentucky by 12 before advancing to the Final Four in Kansas City. The Forddy Anderson-coached Spartans fell to eventual-national champion North Carolina by four in the semifinal game, and then dropped the third-place game to San Francisco the next day (this was one year after Bill Russell left San Francisco).

1979

With the tournament field up to 40 teams by this point, the second-seeded Spartans crushed No. 10 Lamar, No. 3 LSU and No. 1 Notre Dame to advance from the Mideast region and earn a Final Four game with Penn. Johnson and forward Greg Kelser combined for 57 points in a 101–67 drubbing of the Quakers, which set up one of the most highly-anticipated basketball matchups ever at any level. The final between Michigan State and Indiana State was headlined by Magic Johnson and Larry Bird going head-to-head. Johnson scored a game-high 24 points (Bird had 19), and the Spartans and head coach Jud Heathcote won 75–64 to earn their first national title.

1999

In his fourth season as head coach in East Lansing, Tom Izzo headed to his first (and MSU’s third) Final Four in 1999. With a balanced roster led by juniors Morris Peterson and Mateen Cleaves, the top-seeded Spartans took down No. 16 Mount St. Mary’s, No. 9 Ole Miss, No. 13 Oklahoma and No. 3 Kentucky before a Final Four meeting with fellow No. 1 seed Duke. The Spartans struggled early in the first half and made a run to get back in the game in the second, but Izzo’s team couldn’t muster enough scoring to get past an Elton Brand-led Duke team, which fell to UConn in the championship game.

2000

After losing just one of its top six scorers from the 1999 Final Four team, Michigan State got back to the tournament’s final weekend, this time cutting down the nets in Indianapolis as national champions. Izzo’s team, a No. 1 seed again, won six-straight games by double-figures to win the title, including a 53–41 win over Wisconsin in the Final Four and a 89–76 win over Florida in the title game. Mateen Cleaves won the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award after averaging over 14 points per game in MSU’s six tournament games and scoring 18 points against Florida in the championship. Michigan State’s 2001 national title still stands as the last time a Big Ten team won the NCAA Championship.

2001

Despite losing Cleaves and Peterson, Michigan State reached its third-straight Final Four in 2001, in large part thanks to seniors Charlie Bell and Andre Hutson and underclassmen Jason Richardson and Zach Randolph. Richardson took a major leap to score nearly 15 points per game as a sophomore, which helped the Spartans capture a No. 1 seed for the third year in a row. Michigan State won the South Regional without having to play any team higher than a nine-seed, before falling by 19 in the national semifinal round to an Arizona team that featured Richard Jefferson and Gilbert Arenas.

2005

In 2005, Michigan State made a first surprise run to the Final Four. A five-seed in the tournament, the Spartans upset No. 1 Duke and No. 2 Kentucky on their path back to the tournament’s third weekend. Maurice Ager, Alan Anderson and Paul Davis led the team in scoring, but six MSU players averaged between 8.8 and 14.1 points per game. The Spartans led No. 1 seed North Carolina by five at halftime in their Final Four game, but Rashad McCants, Raymond Felton and eventual national champion UNC outscored Izzo & Co. by 21 in the second half to knock out the Big Ten runner-up Spartans.

2009

The 2009 edition of Michigan State played all the way until the season’s final game once again. Buoyed offensively by Big Ten Player of the Year Kalin Lucas and center Goran Suton, the second-seeded Spartans escaped a Round of 32 scare from DeMar DeRozan and USC before taking out No. 3 Kansas 67–62 to get to the Elite Eight. Michigan State then beat two No. 1 seeds, Louisville and UConn, in the following two rounds, but couldn’t beat a third when it faced a buzzsaw of a North Carolina team in the final. Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Tyler Hansbrough combined for 58 points in a dominant effort from the Tar Heels.

2010

The year after falling to UNC in the championship game, Michigan State returned to the Final Four with Lucas back and sophomore Draymond Green taking an increased role. The fifth-seeded Spartans won their first two tournament games against New Mexico State and Maryland by a combined five points, and tight wins over Northern Iowa and Tennessee got the Spartans to the Final Four. However, they fell to Brad Stevens, Gordon Hayward and Butler in a 52–50 game that came down to the wire. Hayward scored a game-high 19 points for the Bulldogs, which fell to Duke by two in the championship.

2015

As the lowest-seeded Michigan State team to get to the Final Four, the 2015 iteration of the Spartans made the national semifinal as a seven-seed. Travis Trice scored 23 points in a 60–54 second-round upset of No. 2 Virginia, and then followed that performance with 24 points in a 62–58 win over Buddy Hield and Oklahoma. Denzel Valentine went for 15 points, seven rebounds and six assists in a 76–70 win over No. 4 Louisville to send MSU to the Final Four, but the Spartans then lost to No. 1 Duke–the eventual national champions–by 20.

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