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Reliving Past Tournaments: Izzo’s Top Wins Part 6

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We don’t have an NCAA tournament this season, so what is there left to do? Well, for starters we can argue over what were Tom Izzo’s greatest tourney wins each day of the tournament!

MSU v Florida Cleaves

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. For the previous game recaps in this series, you can find the full list here.

Today brings us to Coach Izzo’s part of the bracket that offers the slimmest picking. While Tom Izzo and the Michigan State Spartans have a nation’s best eight Final Four appearances since 1999, MSU has only gone 2-6 in those appearances. Of those two wins that meant a national title game appearance, we are all too familiar with the fact only one has seen a victory in that final game. Given the lack of debate of what game this could be and the fact we all know what one was coming for this final look back, I think we should go ahead and get right into the recap then so that is what we will do.


The top seeded Michigan State Spartans returned to the court for the final game of the 1999-2000 NCAA basketball season to take on the fifth seed Florida Gators in the RCA Dome in Indianapolis. What ensued on the court was a performance worthy of the MVP title earned by Mateen Cleaves, even after seeming disaster struck by the low-class dirt bag Teddy Dupay.

Early in the game the young and fast Gators team broke out a full-court press, but the star senior point guard had none of it. Cleaves would dish the ball off to Morris Peterson, race down the court, and proceed to catch the pass in stride like a wide receiver and score on the layup or pull up for the three pointer. By halftime the Spartans had built out an 11-point lead over Florida.

Coming out of the locker room though, the Gators made a quick run to cut the lead to seven, with the score 48-41. Cleaves answered right back with a layup of his own. Then with 16:18 left on the clock, seeming disaster struck. Mateen caught a pass at mid-court in stride, but was fouled by a slap to the wrist courtesy of Brett Nelson. Despite the whistle, Cleaves continued his drive to basket and became entangled with Teddy Dupay. Dupay scored a cheat shot kick to Cleaves’ ankle, and the star point guard was left crawling along the baseline clutching his ankle. After a delay to assist Cleaves into the locker room, game play resumed.

MSU v Florida Cleaves

The Gators tried to rally with the absence of MSU’s starting point guard, but the Spartans hung on with clutch threes from Mike Chappell and A.J. Granger to hold them off. Then with 11:51 left in the game, Cleaves came limping out of the locker room to roaring cheers from the 43,116 fans present, and he promptly returned to the court with MSU up 58-49.

What ensued with Cleaves return was utter dominance as the Spartans began a 21-9 run to more than put the game on ice. Finally, with just 23 seconds left on the clock, the scene that I will always hold in my mind as the go to memory of Michigan State basketball, Cleaves proceeded to make the biggest grin a human can possibly display and hopped in place in a circle grinning to the crowd as the Spartans claimed their second national title, and Izzo’s sole one to date, with an 89-76 victory.

Mateen Cleaves #12...

Morris Peterson rained in 21 points to lead the Spartans in scoring just three days after attending his grandmother’s funeral in Mississippi. Peterson also tied Charlie Bell for leading assists in the game for the Spartans with five apiece, while Bell was second in boards with eight. Fellow senior A.J. Granger added 19 points, primarily in second chance points and close-up jumpers, while grabbing a team high 9 rebounds. Meanwhile, Cleaves added 18 points and dished 4 assists for a stat line that doesn’t truly reflect his level of play in this game.

Cue “One Shining Moment” and then get “Victory for MSU” blasting right after. That’s a wrap for this series.

MSU v Florida Cleaves
NCAA Photos Archive

I hope you enjoyed looking back at all the memorable wins. Per comment suggestion I will put together a head to head match-up for you all to vote in for best win of each round between the first four rounds of the bracket, and I’ll make a separate survey for you to pick your own top win of each round as a whole so keep an eye out for that in the next few days.