Two teams with rich NCAA tournament traditions meet when the No. 2-seeded Marquette Golden Eagles battle the No. 7 Michigan State Spartans Sunday in a second-round East Region contest in Columbus, Ohio.
The winner advances to the East Region semifinals Thursday at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Both teams were able to avoid the upset bug on Friday in Columbus. Marquette (29-6) set a new school record for most wins in a season, handling No. 15 seed Vermont, 78-61, leading nearly wire to wire.
Marquette’s previous high for wins in a season was 28 in 1970-71, going undefeated until losing to Ohio State in the NCAA regional semifinals. Marquette won the national championship in 1977 and reached the Final Four in 2003.
Michigan State (20-12) has captured two national championships (1979, 2000) and has made the Final Four 10 times, including most recently in 2019.
Unlike Purdue, Michigan State was a Big Ten team that escaped the upset on Friday, dispatching of Pac-12 foe USC, 72-62, to earn a showdown with a program that was once a big rival.
“I’ve been really pleased with the focus of my team, (Friday) night in the walk-through room, (Saturday) in the practice. It’s something I complained about for weeks. I just did not see it all the time,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said.
“I think that’s the beauty of the NCAA Tournament. And maybe the beauty of playing on Friday and then getting a chance to play again. You see all the upsets that happen.”
Izzo said he felt for Purdue coach Matt Painter after the stunning loss to No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson.
“And they’ve got a lot of good friends on some of those teams that it happened to. Especially for us, with Purdue, because we’re close as a staff. And I have so much respect for Matt,” Izzo said. “But our players know each other pretty well. And I think that hits home even differently.”
The two teams will be focused on the present Sunday as Marquette looks to continue a roll that has seen them win 10 straight and 15 of 16, rising to a No. 6 ranking in the final pre-tournament AP poll.
During the 10-game winning streak, junior guard Tyler Kolek is averaging 17.2 points and Marquette is forcing 15 turnovers per contest.
“We’re excited to be here, heading into the game against Michigan State,” Marquette coach Shaka Smart said. “It’s a heckuva program. I remember my first year in coaching as a 22-year-old kid, watching Coach Izzo’s Mateen Cleaves-led team squad win the (2000) National Championship. And that for me was a moment that cemented in my mind (that) college basketball was where I wanted to be.”
Tyson Walker and Joey Hauser lead the Spartans’ attack. Walker is averaging 14.5 points per game while Hauser, a 6-foot-9 forward, is just behind at 14.3. A.J. Hoggard directs the offense at point guard, averaging 12.5 points and six assists.
Hauser played for Marquette under head coach Steve Wojciechowski during the 2018-19 season before transferring to Michigan State after sitting out a season.
“I don’t know any of the players or coaches there. It doesn’t really — it was a long time ago. So I don’t have any ill will towards them,” Hauser said. “But it’s just Michigan State versus Marquette.”
Hauser is also the younger brother of Boston Celtics forward Sam Hauser, who also played at Marquette before transferring to Virginia.
–Field Level Media