It was a strange feeling for the Spartans, who have reached the Final Four the past two years and six of the last 12 under coach Tom Izzo.
“I feel fortunate to be in,” Izzo said. “But if you look at the whole body of work, we probably deserve to be in.”
Michigan State played one of the nation’s toughest schedules and won 19 games. Its last victory, over Purdue in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals on Friday, might have sealed a spot in the NCAAs.
“I wasn’t as nervous today as I have been the past month,” Izzo said.
As disappointing as Michigan State has been this season, it is tough to count out Izzo in March.
His winning percentage in the NCAA tournament is .745 _ only Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams have fared better _ and he led the Spartans to the 2000 national championship.
Michigan State started the season ranked No. 2, but a series of setbacks put the program on the bubble over the last month. The Spartans, though, did enough to extend their streak of NCAA tournament appearances to 14. Only Kansas (22) and Duke (16) have longer active streaks.
“I don’t think there’s any pressure off us because I still think expectations are high,” Izzo said. “The relief of getting in is only for the streak.”
ARE WE THERE YET? Georgia coach Mark Fox received a 4 a.m. wake-up question from his 8-year-old daughter, Olivia, on Sunday.
“She asked if we were in the big dance yet,” Fox said. “I told her she needed to go back to bed and she said, ‘Daddy, it’s Sunday. You said we’d know on Sunday if we’re in the big dance.’”
It seems everybody wanted to know the NCAA fate of Georgia, widely discussed as a bubble team.
Fox and his daughter were happy with the answer.
Georgia (21-11) made the NCAA tournament field and Fox was especially happy his team won’t have to travel far from home for its first game.
A surprisingly strong No. 10 seed in the east regional, the Bulldogs will play No. 7 seed Washington on Friday in Charlotte, N.C.