The Michigan State Spartans tip off their 2011 NCAA Men’s basketball tourney tonight in Tampa against the UCLA Bruins. The tenth seeded Spartans stumbled into the tourney compiling a 19 win-14 loss season. The seventh seeded Bruins posted a slightly better 22 and 10 record.
The Los Angeles Times says the young UCLA squad will need to focus as they take on an MSU team of tournament veterans.
"We can't look at it like that, that we're a young team," Bruins junior guard Lazeric Jones said. "Don't come in so wide-eyed that we get blown away. We just have to come in like we've been here before and stick to the game plan and go out and execute."
The Spartans have appeared in 14 straight NCAA tournaments, and the last two trips ended in the final four. But the St. Petersburg Times notes that after starting with such high hopes and a number two ranking in preseason polls, this year’s lackluster seasonhas few people expecting coach Tom Izzo will lead the Spartans back to another national championship. Still Izzo’s Spartans have defied the odds in the past.
Izzo's teams have a history of outlasting their seeded expectations — in the past nine seasons, Michigan State has earned a top-four seed just once, yet the Spartans have survived the opening weekend five times, including three Final Fours. So when reminded this week that Green hasn't backed off from his preseason statement, Izzo isn't disappointed by that confidence.