A history-making coach and program meets another program looking to make its mark when No. 7 seed Michigan State battles 10th-seeded Southern California in a first-round East Region game Friday in Columbus, Ohio.
Michigan State (19-12) has earned a bid to its 25th consecutive NCAA Tournament, thelongest streak by any Big Ten school in tournament history.
Spartans head coach Tom Izzo became the first men's coach in history to lead his team to 25 straight NCAA Tournament appearances, passing Duke's Mike Krzyzewski with 24 in a row from 1996-2019.
"There were times when we were seven seed and made it to a Final Four there were times where we were the one seed and lost in the first weekend, so it really doesn't matter who you play," Izzo said.
"It really doesn't matter where you play. I thought it was beneficial for us not to have to go way out west and play there on a Thursday. That was the only thing I hoped for. Other than that, I didn't care where we went. It's in Columbus, Big Ten country. It's nice for our fans. It's nice for our families. It's nice for the players, families."
Michigan State's streak of 25 straight NCAA tournament appearances is not only a Big Ten record, but also the third-longest in NCAA history, trailing only Kansas (33, 1990-2023) and North Carolina (27, 1975-2001). MSU's streak is also the second-longest active streak in the nation behind Kansas.
The winner between the Spartans and Trojans (22-10) will take on the winner of second-seeded Marquette (28-6) and No. 15-seeded Vermont (23-10) on Sunday in a second-round contest.
Michigan State reached the tournament as an at-large qualifier, losing 68-58 to Ohio State in the Big Ten quarterfinals in Chicago. USC also fell in its conference quarterfinals, 77-72, to Arizona State.
This will mark the seventh all-time meeting between Michigan State and USC and the series is currently tied at 3-3. The schools last met in the second round of the 2009 NCAA Tournament with the second-seeded Spartans outlasting the No. 10 Trojans, 74-69, on their way to a spot in the NCAA championship game.
USC is 5-4 under Andy Enfield in the NCAA Tournament. Last season, the No. 7 Trojans lost in the first round to Miami as a No. 7 seed. The early exit came one year after they reached the Elite Eight as a No. 6 seed.
"I have a lot of respect for him," Izzo said of Enfield. "And let's just say they're a team that's very good defensively. They've held opponents under 40 percent shooting. The only thing I do know about them a good free-throw shooting team. Those are always two things that fare well in an NCAA tournament."
This marks just the second time that USC has made it to the NCAA Tournament in three straight years. The Trojans previously made three consecutive appearances between 2007-09.
"Our players are excited to be in March Madness," Enfield said. "Players had an outstanding season this year with 22 wins, tied for second (in Pac-12). The Pac-12 Conference was really good this year, and I thought our players battled, a lot of injuries with a variety of players and we were able to have a very successful season. It was a lot of fun to coach these guys. We're excited to go compete for a national championship and it starts with our game on Friday."
USC features two standout guards in Boogie Ellis and Drew Peterson. Ellis averages 18 points per game while Peterson is averaging 14.0 points, 6.2 rebounds and 4.4 assists.
--Field Level Media