TULSA, Okla. (AP) — It’s a matchup that is nothing short of a second-round battle of two of the biggest blue-blood programs in all of college basketball, especially when it comes to the NCAA Tournament.
No. 9 seed Michigan State (20-14) will take on No. 1 seed Kansas (29-4) in the second round, Midwest region in Tulsa, Okla. 5:15 p.m.
Kansas has the sixth-highest winning percentage (.697) with a record of 101-44 in tournament history, while the Spartans are seventh with a record of 64-29 (.688).
Kansas standout Josh Jackson didn’t waste any time in making his tournament presence felt in a first-round win over UC Davis, scoring 17 points on 8-of-12 shooting. Jackson’s performance came in his first game following a one-game suspension in the Big 12 Conference Tournament for a series of embarrassing incidents this season, including a December confrontation outside a bar and three traffic citations in February.
But the Spartans’ have a remarkable reputation as a giant killer in the postseason has been well earned over the years.
It’s a reputation that was only enhanced with the ninth-seeded Spartans’ (20-14) dominating opening-round win over eighth-seeded Miami on Friday night, one they’ll put to the ultimate test when they face top-seeded Kansas (29-4) on Sunday.
“Yeah, personally, I don’t like it,” Izzo said. “… That means we’re a bad seed a lot of time, so I don’t feel as good about that as maybe I should.”
Michigan State’s win over the Hurricanes improved the school to 14-10 in the NCAA Tournament as a lower seed under Izzo. That’s the most wins by a school as a lower seed in tournament history — though the Spartans penchant for toppling higher seeds didn’t begin until after their sixth NCAA appearance under Izzo in 2003.
That season, a seventh-seeded Michigan State ousted a second-seeded Florida and sixth-seeded Maryland before finally succumbing to No. 1 seed Texas in the Elite Eight. It followed with eight more wins over higher seeds in the next 11 years before cementing its stellar postseason reputation with a Final Four run two years ago.
That appearance came as a No. 7 seed for the Spartans, the lowest seeded team to reach one of the school’s six Final Fours under Izzo.