It’s now 19 years and counting since a Big Ten team won an NCAA men’s basketball title. Tom Izzo’s Michigan State team last won one in 2000.
Izzo’s Spartans lost 61-51 to Texas Tech on Saturday night. Afterward, a man who has reached the Final Four eight times was asked about the state of the conference now that one more year without a championship has gone by.
“I don’t think it’s fair,” Izzo said after the Big Ten’s 14th consecutive Final Four appearance without cutting down the nets. “Throughout this year, our league top to bottom was the best. I’m going to be prejudiced to our league, somebody else is going to be prejudiced to theirs. We played 20 conference games in the regular season, the most of any conference playing. We play in front of the most people.
“We didn’t get it done. I feel like I’m part of that issue, so I’ll put on my big-boy pants and say, yeah, you’ve been here eight times and you’ve won one, so that’s part of the problem.”
Texas Tech coach Chris Beard studied Michigan State all week. “I watched every game Michigan State played this year, every interview, every article and you kind of get to know somebody,” he said.
That’s why he said Izzo’s greeting after Saturday’s game meant so much to him.
“Coach Izzo’s handshake and kind words to me is something I’ll never forget in my career,” Beard said.
Be true to your school
A day after Izzo invited him to speak to the Spartans, Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins wore a green MSU polo and white MSU hat and cheered on his alma mater from the seats at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Seated next to his father, Don, Cousins received a warm ovation when he was shown on the video board just before halftime of the Spartans-Texas Tech game.
Cousins led Michigan State to a share of the 2010 Big Ten football title and its first conference championship game in 2011. He played golf with Izzo at Augusta National several years ago and has stayed close to his school, frequently posting about its teams on social media.
“There’s a great relationship of Michigan State football and basketball,” Izzo said. “To the day I die, I think his speech at the Big Ten media day [in 2011] is one of the great all-time speeches I’ve heard. I’ve got it on tape.”
Cousins wasn’t the only NFL QB in the crowd supporting his former school. Kansas City Chiefs star and 2018 league MVP Patrick Mahomes cheered on Texas Tech, where he played from 2014 to ’16.
“It was pretty cool to have the MVP of the NFL on our side pulling for us,” Red Raiders senior Matt Mooney said.
While he was gone
Texas Tech fans cheered when senior forward Tariq Owens returned to the court with about eight minutes left in the game Saturday, returning after injuring his knee. While he was gone, he missed some of Mooney’s 22-point game.
“I’m upset that I missed it,” Owens said. “I was back in the locker room and missed it. This is what we came here for and he had the biggest game of his career tonight on the biggest stage.”
Staff writer Ben Goessling contributed to this report.