sutonINDIANAPOLIS – To say that Tom Izzo’s crew was ready for the overall No. 1 seed on Sunday might have been an understatement.

They had been there before; underdogs. Despite winning the often criticized Big Ten Conference regular season by four games and the conference tournament, much of the talk entering Sunday suffocated every idea other than the Big East advancing three teams to the Final Four.

Michigan State was given little chance in 2000 against Florida, and led by the Flintstones – Morris Peterson, Charlie Bell and Mateen Cleaves, all from Flint, Mich. – the Spartans advanced to win the program’s second national basketball title. Michigan State went into Sunday’s Elite Eight game against Louisville with that same mentality and punched its ticket to the Final Four. This win also keeps Izzo’s accomplishment intact of having every four-year player he has coached at Michigan St. reach at least one Final Four.

With former Spartan Magic Johnson looking on, Michigan State led the Cardinals by three at halftime and took a 15-point lead in the final seconds of the game. Goran Suton pushed the Spartans’ lead to double digits on a free throw with just over eight minutes remaining in the game.

If Louisville was credited as being the No. 1 seed in the tournament, does that mean Michigan State has what it takes to knock out another Big East power in UConn? The task in beating the Huskies might be a bit more challenging than what was presented by the Cardinals. There will, though, be a couple of interesting matchups to watch for this weekend. But who will be the X-factor and what matchups will weigh heavier on the outcome?

Hasheem Thabeet v. Suton?

A.J. Price v. Kalin Lucas?

Jim Calhoun v. Tom Izzo? That pairing is reason enough to watch this Final Four game. And with North Carolina eliminating Oklahoma in what should have been a Final Four game, Michigan St. vs. UConn will no doubt be the main event for championship weekend. Valparaiso simply doesn’t have the same name value it once had. Sorry Big East fans. The conference hyped for dominating the regular season is one Spartan upset of the Huskies away from having no representative in the final game.


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