Tom Izzo and Michigan State to take on North Carolina in the Round of 32

Print More

Ethan Hunter

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Two of college basketball’s premier programs brace to face off in the second round of the NCAA tournament on Saturday. This will be the first postseason meeting between Michigan State and North Carolina since the 2009 National Championship.

Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo acknowledged his struggles in years past against North Carolina, saying it “doesn’t feel good”. He sees this matchup as an opportunity and explained how much it means to coach in a game like this.

“We’re gonna show up tomorrow. We’re gonna see what we can do,” Izzo said. “We have the opportunity of a lifetime. These are memory-making moments.”

Izzo also brought the jokes to his Friday afternoon press conference, recalling a game he lost to North Carolina by 35 points in the same 2009 season the Spartans fell to UNC in the title game.

“It just goes to show you how good a coach I am,” Izzo said. “Because of good coaching, we only got beat by 20 in [the National Championship].”

Michigan State limped through the last couple weeks of the regular season, winning only one of its previous five games before the Big Ten tournament. However, Izzo says his team is in a much better position now than they were a month ago.

The Spartans are coming into the second round full steam ahead after an impressive showing against Mississippi State, but now take on a steeper challenge against the one-seeded Tar Heels.

Graduate Armando Bacot averages 14.3 points per game while grabbing 10.3 rebounds per-game for the Tar Heels. Bacot will be one of the toughest bigs the Spartans have faced this year, but to MSU players like graduate Malik Hall, this team has had their fair share of playing against talented big men throughout the season.

“I think it gives us a little advantage playing [Zach] Edey a couple times,” Hall said.

Graduate guard Tyson Walker has been impressive all season and put on another stellar performance, scoring 19 points in the Spartan’s opening-round game. Walker will need to continue to play a pivotal role in the offense to keep pace with the Tar Heels, who score an average of nearly 82 points per game.

Hall and senior guard A.J. Hoggard both appreciate having a player like Walker on their team. Hall noted the importance of Walker and said he is trusted with just about everything. To Hoggard, Walker’s value is tremendous for the team, and enjoys getting to play alongside him.

“It’s definitely fun playing with him and he just means a lot to us on both sides of the ball,” Hoggard said.

UNC senior guard RJ Davis, who pours in an average of 21.4 points per game, sees this matchup as two physical teams that bring toughness to the table.

“I know how coach Izzo coaches his team and I know how coach Davis coaches us,” Davis said. “I’m expecting a dog fight from start to finish.”

Since 1999, no teams boast more Final Four appearances than these two storied programs. Both sides will look to take a step closer to reaching the biggest stage in college basketball yet again.

Tip-off between the Spartans and Tar Heels is set for 5:30 p.m. in Charlotte on Saturday, Mar. 23.

Comments are closed.