DES MOINES, Iowa (WOOD) — With 33 appearances and 97 games played, Michigan State knows its way around an NCAA Tournament.
But Saturday’s matchup against Minnesota is relatively unexplored territory. The Spartans have only played one Big Ten team during the big dance: Wisconsin in 2000.
“I don’t think anybody likes the fact that we have to play a conference game. It felt like we just won the Big Ten Conference… then we won the Big Ten Tournament. Now we’ve got the Big Ten NCAA Tournament. I mean, it’s weird,” said MSU head coach Tom Izzo.
Michigan State rolled over Minnesota 79-55 in the only regular season meeting between the two teams, back in early February.
“They’re relentless. They are physically relentless. And that’s been the consistent theme ith that team every single year that we’ve played them,” said Minnesota head coach Richard Pitino.
But the Spartans say this is now a very different Golden Gophers team.
“They’re night and day between what they were when they played us and what they are now. They’re shooting the ball better,” said MSU freshman Aaron Henry.
“They’re definitely playing a lot better than last time we played them. Their shooting is a lot better and their inside presence is a lot better,” said MSU senior Matt McQuaid.
It’s a Minnesota team looking to win back-to-back games in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 22 years.
“We all know that they’re playing ten times better than what they were before. But we’re ready to take on that challenge because we think we’re a better team too,” said MSU senior Kenny Goins.
“It brings us a little confidence because we played them before. But then again, we had confidence going against a 15-seed and they took us to the wire,” said MSU sophomore Xavier Tillman.
The tipoff between Michigan State and Minnesota is 7:45 p.m. Saturday.