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Izzo, Coach K could collide in Midwest

  • Article by: ASSOCIATED PRESS
  • March 17, 2013 - 9:10 PM

Mike Krzyzewski and Tom Izzo have been regulars in the NCAA tournament, both making multiple Final Four appearances and winning national titles in impressive streaks of appearances.

They are only two victories each away from a rare March matchup in the Midwest Region.

Duke (27-5) will play in its 18th consecutive NCAA tournament under Krzyzewski, as the No. 2 seed. For their 16th NCAA in a row, Izzo’s Michigan State Spartans (27-7) are the No. 3 seed in the same region.

The coaches have gone head-to-head only twice in the NCAA tournament, splitting those games. Both have work to do before there can be a third -- and then there would be the potential regional final matchup against Big East champion Louisville (29-5), the No. 1 overall seed.

“You know it is hard to look ahead to any of that. Coach-speaking, never do that. But in human speaking, you do that,” said Izzo, 1-6 in his career against Duke.

Michigan State, which has been to six Final Fours and won the 2000 national title under Izzo, opens Thursday in its home state against Valparaiso (26-7), the Horizon League champion that has won nine of its past 10 games and is in its first NCAA tournament since 2004.

“I love being at (Auburn Hills, Mich.), I think that’s great. I love Indy if we get past the first weekend,” Izzo said. “Early on, we have to play games that we have to find a way to win. If we get out of the first weekend, we really have two (No.) 1 seeds.”

Repeat bracket visitor

First-year Colorado State coach Larry Eustachy is taking his fourth different team to the NCAA tournament, having previously gone with Utah State, Iowa State and Southern Mississippi.

Colorado State (25-8), the eighth seed in the Midwest with an at-large berth out of the Mountain West, plays SEC newcomer Missouri (23-10) on Thursday at Kentucky’s Rupp Arena.

The Rams lead the nation with a rebounding margin of 12.1, led by former Gopher Colton Iverson, who is averaging 14.7 points, 9.8 rebounds and shooting 60 percent from the field.

Missouri is third in the nation rebounding margin, with a 9.5 advantage. The Tigers are also the only team in the nation with six players averaging in double-figure scoring.

Kentucky stays home

There was a no at-large NCAA tournament bid for the young Kentucky squad that could not overcome injuries, sporadic guard play and a lack of leadership.

A 16-point loss in Friday’s must-win game in the Southeastern Conference tournament against Vanderbilt a few miles from the Commodores’ Nashville campus sealed the fate of the Wildcats, who were left out of the 68-team field.

Kentucky (21-11) becomes the 20th national champion to miss the tournament the following season, according to Stats LLC

Small miracles?

The selection committee handed out 11 at-large bids to teams from outside what are often called the power conferences. Some worried when the tournament expanded to 68 teams that it would just mean a few more mediocre teams from those leagues — football’s BCS conferences — would get chosen over smaller schools that did not win their conference tournaments.

But 22 of those small school teams have made it over the last two years now.

The trend was most noticeable with the last four teams chosen for the field. The committee chose La Salle, Boise State, St. Mary’s and Middle Tennessee State over Tennessee, Kentucky and Iowa, all 20-win teams from bigger conferences.

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