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Notes & Quotes: Michigan State reacts to facing familiar foe, making NCAA Tournament

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The Spartans will face Davidson this Friday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament- Purdue vs Michigan State Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan State men’s basketball head basketball coach Tom Izzo addressed the media on Sunday evening following the selection show for the 2022 NCAA Tournament. The No. 7-seeded Spartans will take on the No. 10-seeded Davidson Wildcats on Friday.

Izzo began the press conference expressing his gratitude that the Spartans are in the tournament for the 24th consecutive season, as well as the improvements that MSU has made down the stretch as they head into the NCAA Tournament.

“I’m just happy that, number one, we’re in the tournament, and number two, we’re playing better,” Izzo said. “The whole gist of it is trying to figure out how we can improve the fastest to make a difference. You can’t improve your jump shot; you can’t improve your free-throw shooting. It’s even harder to improve your turnovers.

“What you can improve is, are you screening better? Are you rolling harder? Are you stepping up on ball screens?”

Izzo went on to talk about the matchup with Davidson, which is where former Spartan point guard Foster Loyer transferred this past offseason, making the matchup that much more interesting for both teams.

“I’ve watched them a couple of times,” Izzo said about Davidson. “I actually talk to Foster (Loyer) quite often. I think (Luka) Brajkovic was the Player of the Year in the Atlantic 10, Foster’s averaging 16 points a game, they have four players averaging double figures.

“They’re one of the best three-point shooting teams in the country,” Izzo added. “Very deserving of being in. When you lose your conference championship and still make it in, it just shows you how good you really are in some of the conferences.”

Despite the connection in this matchup with Davidson due to Loyer, Izzo stressed that he didn’t want that to be the storyline of the game.

“I think it’s nice for TV, you know?” Izzo said. “I’m not going to make this a ‘Foster Loyer-Tom Izzo’ (thing). We’ve got so many good players that deserve some credit,” Izzo added.

“I hope and pray for all of you that, number one, you don’t make that the storyline, and number two, that puts pressure on Foster, too. When you’re in the NCAA Tournament, that’s something special that you should enjoy.”

Izzo wrapped up by saying how excited his players are to be in the NCAA Tournament and what it means to them after the up and down season the Spartans have had.

Following Izzo, players Gabe Brown, A.J. Hoggard, Malik Hall and Max Christie spoke with the media.

Brown was asked about what he, as a senior leader and one of the Spartans who has played in a “regular” NCAA Tournament, will do to make sure the team is ready for its matchup on Friday.

“I’ll just try and get my guys ready as a captain,” Brown said. “Get my guys prepared, watching film, working out, just doing the little things to get us ready.”

On Loyer and Davidson, Brown said he still talks to Loyer and is “very close” with the former Spartan point guard.

“It’s going to be an exciting game,” Brown said. “It’s going to be a good game for us, and I know it’s going to be exciting for Foster to see us as well.”

Brown was later asked about the possibility of a lower-seeded team such as the Spartans making a run in this year’s tournament given the upsets that have happened around the country this year.

“It’s March, anything is possible,” Brown said with a smile.

Hall says he thinks the Spartans have improved down the stretch and during the Big Ten Tournament.

“I definitely think we grew a lot this (conference) tournament,” Hall said. “We didn’t get what we wanted, but I still think we took some really large steps for this team.

“I’m just really excited,” Hall added later.

Hoggard took to the podium to speak as well. When asked about his injury, Hoggard said he’s dealing with “a little pain, but nothing too serious.”

With the injury to fellow point guard Tyson Walker, who Izzo said might not be quite ready to play by Friday (although he mentioned he’s looking better), Hoggard will have a big role to play for the Spartans during their first-round matchup with Davidson.

Christie spoke about preparing for the tournament with the possibility of stepping in at point guard if Walker has to sit out the Spartans’ first game on Friday.

“I think I’ve prepared for it,” Christie said. “I’ve done it a couple of times and I think I’ve gotten better at it. It just comes down to watching film and seeing what I need to do to be efficient at that spot.”

The Spartans will head to Greenville, South Carolina this week to take on Davidson. Tip-off is set for 9:40 pm Eastern time on Friday, and the game will air on CBS.