MSU hopes to avoid another early NCAA exit

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Michigan State coach Tom Izzo would like to use last year’s shocking NCAA Tournament loss as a teaching tool for this year’s tournament team.

The problem is, the longtime Spartans coach isn’t so sure how well this year’s largely overhauled and injury-riddled roster would relate to last year’s No. 2 seed that was ousted in the first round by 15th-seeded Middle Tennessee State .

Ninth-seeded Michigan State (19-14) will open its 20th straight NCAA Tournament when it faces eighth-seeded Miami (21-11) in the Midwest Regional tonight. The Spartans will do so with only three players who played in last year’s tournament loss, none who were starters in that game.

“I can use a lot from last year’s loss,” Izzo said. “The problem is everybody I talk to doesn’t know anything about that game. They weren’t there.”

While Michigan State doesn’t come into Friday’s opener with the same lofty credentials as last year’s 29-win team, it does carry a reputation for NCAA success — thanks to Izzo’s 46-18 record in the tournament.

It’s a reputation that will be tested against the Hurricanes, who advanced to last year’s Sweet 16 and have won at least one NCAA Tournament game in each of their last three appearances.

“We know what happened last year, but we’re not going to dwell on the past,” said Michigan State guard Tum Tum Nairn, who played 7 minutes off the bench in last year’s loss. “We know what happened, but (we want to) just do what we can to get a win.”

Some other things to watch in the Midwest Regional on Friday:

COWBOY PRIDE: First-year Oklahoma State coach Brad Underwood expects more from his program, and he hopes the Cowboys will show it when they face Michigan. The Cowboys come into the tourney with three straight losses, all to ranked teams, and four straight losses in NCAA Tourney play. But with two national titles and six Final Fours in school history, Underwood wants his players to start thinking big. “This should not be a foreign place for Oklahoma State basketball,” he said.”

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