The year 1979 wasn't just about Magic Johnson and the men's basketball team.
That year, the baseball team won the Big Ten and reached its second consecutive NCAA Tournament. But since then, MSU baseball had basically been in the dark ages. The hiring of Jake Boss Jr. and the renovation of Kobs Field/McLane Baseball Stadium in 2008/09 brought new hope.
Last season, the program won its first conference title since that '79 season, and on Monday, the Spartans earned an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament, making the field for the first time in more than 30 years.
The Spartans are the No. 3 seed in the Palo Alto regional and will face No. 2 seed and West Coast Conference champion Pepperdine at 4 p.m. ET on Friday (ESPN3.com/SpartanSportsNetwork.com). The other teams in the double-elimination regional are No. 1 seed Stanford and No. 4 seed Fresno State. Coincidentally, MSU's first opponent in the 1979 tournament was... Pepperdine — which beat the Spartans 15-0. (MSU rebounded with a 6-4 win over Miami (Ohio) but then lost 5-4 to San Diego State).
You can view the entire bracket here.
For those of you out west, here is the ticket information. It will be the fifth tournament appearance in program history (1954, 71, 78, 79)
MSU (37-21) finished in fifth place in the Big Ten and lost to Indiana in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals. But a strong nonconference schedule and RPI kept them on the bubble. Most analysts thought the Spartans would be left out, but their name was called during the selection show. Here's a video of the team's reaction from MSU.
More after the jump
Not eveyone was as pleased as the Spartans. Kendall Rogers of Perfect Game did not agree with MSU's selection into the tournament:
Trust me, having covered this sport for more than 10 seasons, I know exactly how things work from a geographic balancing standpoint. However, it was a little surprising to me to see the Spartans apparently solidly in the field of 64. The Spartans, (NCAA Selection committee chairman Kyle) Kallander said, were the No. 2 team in that region of the country, according to an advisory committee of coaches. Kallander also said the Spartans played a tough non-conference schedule. However, they lost many of those games, and even worse, they finished fifth place in the Big Ten, a whopping three games behind Indiana for second place, and four games behind Purdue for first place. While conference finish mattered in some cases, it certainly was ignored in this case.
A second bid for the Big Ten is rare. The conference isn't nearly good enough compared to the southern part of the country. But in the nonconference season, MSU played some top teams, including a win over top-10 Baylor. Other notable opponents included St. John's, Louisville and Texas A&M. The result was an RPI around 45, which kept the Spartans on the bubble after their extra-inning Big Ten Tournament exit.
Just like the ice hockey team, MSU's tournament berth came right down to the wire. MSU was the last team into the hockey tournament, and baseball was one of the last three teams in.
The conference pride was apparent.
Here were some MSU player reactions on Twitter:
Cali here we come!!!!— Ryan Jones (@ryryjones10) May 28, 2012
Just got an at large bid, going to Cali this weekend— Joel Fisher (@J_Fish32) May 28, 2012
Goin to Stanford baby!!— Andrew (@WazRooster5) May 28, 2012
With baseball's selection, the MSU men's basketball, women's basketball, ice hockey, volleyball and baseball teams each made their respective NCAA Tournament, plus the bowl win for the football team. It is the first time in school history this has happened. MSU is the only school in the country to send both its basketball teams, its hockey team and its baseball team to the postseason.
Add in all the personal awards (including Mark Hollis' AD of the Year title) and MSU athletics has had quite the academic year.