MSU Prepares For First Round Game Against Temple

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- After a long and sometimes disappointing Big Ten season, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo is ready for his favorite time of the year.
No. 5 seed Michigan State (25-8) plays No. 12 seed Temple (21-12) Thursday in a South Regional game in Denver. The Spartans are making their 11th straight NCAA appearance, the fifth-longest streak in the nation. Temple is appearing for the first time since 2001.
The survivor will face either No. 4 seed Pittsburgh (26-9) or No. 13 Oral Roberts (24-8) on Saturday.
The annual announcement of the NCAA pairings on Sunday seemed to reinvigorate Izzo, whose team finished fourth in the Big Ten and suffered a bitter semifinal loss to Wisconsin in the conference tournament.
"Last night I realized what I enjoy most about this job. It's working in March," Izzo said Monday.
"I am probably more excited about this than I've been in a while. ... I think this team has a chance. I think some guys are learning some lessons. I think it's taken a little longer than I'd like it to. Maybe that's my fault. But I think we'll be ready to make a run. Whether we do, it just depends if the other teams oblige."
Michigan State has made it to four Final Fours since 1999. Izzo ranks fifth among active coaches in NCAA tournament winning percentage at .727 -- a 24-9 mark.
Temple lost 69-62 to Michigan State in its last NCAA appearance in a 2001 Elite Eight game.
Coach Fran Dunphy is in his second year with the program, but he is no stranger to the NCAA tournament. Dunphy took Penn to the tournament nine times before moving to Temple.
Temple is led by swingman Dionte Christmas at 20.2 points per game. Forward Mark Tyndale averages 15.9 points per game and leads the team in assists and rebounding. Temple rolled to the Atlantic 10 tournament title last weekend and has won seven straight games.
"They definitely have more of a perimeter-oriented team," Izzo said. "Their swingmen are very good."
The Owls could have trouble matching up with Michigan State's frontcourt, including leading scorer Raymar Morgan (14.5 points per game) and top rebounder Goran Suton. But Temple could be tough on the perimeter against guard Drew Neitzel, who averages 14.2 points per game but looked for his shot more in the Big Ten tournament, averaging 27 points in two games.
Izzo wants Neitzel to continue being more aggressive in the NCAA tourney.
Michigan State is coming off an emotional 65-63 loss to Wisconsin. The Spartans blew a 12-point lead, in part because they were whistled for 30 fouls and had four players foul out.
Izzo was anguished after the loss. But the Spartans are trying to regroup, motivated by the knowledge that the last time they were a No. 5 seed -- in 2005 -- they made it all the way to the Final Four.
"I feel good about where we are," Izzo said.


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