Given Tom Izzo as the Michigan State Spartans head coach has 22 straight years in the NCAA tournament and 52 wins in that time frame, there are a lot of games to look back at over his career. So I decided we could all use a fun debate over what his best win each day of the tournament was through each round (note I am going by day, not just round, so today is the best win in a second round game played on Sunday only, and next Thursday will be the best win played on Thursday in the Sweet 16). If you didn’t read the best win of Thursday first round matchups, then be sure to do so here. Then Friday’s best win is here. Best Saturday second round matchup is here.
I am betting most of you came here expecting to see the 2010 buzzer beater over the then ACC Maryland Terrapins. That was a truly phenomenal finish, and beating an ACC team is always great. They aren’t the god forsaken satan’s conference for no reason after all. For all his later troubles with the team, Korie Lucious will certainly be a memorable Spartan for his shining March moment after all. However, that game did not make the top pick by me.
Or perhaps you might have thought I would list the second straight season of a NCAA tournament win over the Virginia Cavaliers in 2015. And to be fair, beating that eye sore excuse for a basketball team is certainly a service to civilized society. Really, an outright necessity for truth, justice, and the American way when you think about it. However, you will be disappointed if that is what you expected.
However, when it came down to it, my choice was made easy by the fact I hate the Florida Gators in basketball now and forever because of Teddy Dupay’s cheap shot in 2000. So my decision is quite easy in this one. The 2003 Second Round Sunday upset win over the No. 2 seed Florida Gators b our No. 7 seed Michigan State Spartans. And when I say “upset,” what I truly mean is a Hulk like smashing, destructive beat down that would make Loki jump for joy at how gentle his run-in at the top of Stark Tower looked in comparison to MSU finishing off their appetizer of Gator bites with a 68-46 win.
The 2003 Spartans managed to finish tied for third in the Big Ten with Michigan and Purdue at 10-6 in conference, finishing 18-11 overall in the regular season. They also had non-conference wins over Virginia and Kentucky, but had losses to Villanova, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, and Toledo. Also among the non-conference losses was a February 23rd loss to Syracuse.
MSU earned the No. 5 seed in the Big Ten Tournament, and won their first game against No. 4 seed Purdue. They lost by one point on Saturday to No. 8 seed Ohio State, 55-54. Come selection Sunday, the Spartans got the No. 7 seed in the south and hopped a flight down to the beaches of Tampa for the first round.
After enjoying a nice serving of Buffalo in the first round courtesy of Colorado (thanks again for Mel Tucker guys, please keep the urine filled balloons to yourselves), the 2000 title game rematch was set just a two hours, 132 mile trek from Florida’s home arena.
The heavily favored Gators, just like in 2000, were supposedly a fast paced team that liked the run the fast break. How did that style of play work out for them in this matchup? Michigan State outscored them 14-0 on fast-break points. What about down low? The Big Ten team also owned the paint, outscoring Florida by 28-18 down low.
Florida scored a season low 46 points, including just 19 in the second half. MSU shot 70 percent in the first half, going 14-for-20 on their attempts. At the half, it was just a ten point lead at 37-27. However, the flood gates opened up in the second half, and the Spartans ran away with it.
Just over halfway through the second half the Gators did manage to trim the deficit to within 15. Michigan State responded with an 11-0 run to build out their cushion back to 62-36 with over five minutes of game time still remaining.
The Spartans finished the game 55.6 percent from the field. Maurice Ager led in scoring with 16 points, while Erazem Lorbek and Chris Hill added 12 points each.
Florida shot just 37 percent. David Lee led with 16 points, and Justin Hamilton scored 12.
Be sure to check back on Thursday for the next look back at Tom Izzo’s best wins of the Sweet 16. In the meantime, let’s hear your memories of this blowout, or your thoughts on why a different game should have been the pick.