WASHINGTON – At the end of one of the best eleven eight rounds of NCAA tournament history, two Hall of Fame coaches and championship programs are delivered with a heavyweight worth for the hype that comes with no duke vs Michigan State showdown. The only difference this time was the result when the well-known tale of Tom Izzo falls short against the blue devils, was not played for the 12th time at this stage.
This time, with a Final Four bet on the line between the ACC and the Big Ten conference tournament champions, Izzo was victorious against Mike Krzyzewski when the Spartans pulled off the shocker of this year's March Madness with an exciting 68-67 victory over the blue devils.
"We've only doubled our win total against Duke. We're 2-11." Michigan State coach Tom Izzo
"Let's get something else as long as we start putting myself on something of the same planet," Izzo said as he discussed his rivalry with Coach K. "We are 2 -11 Now, we doubled our win total against Duke, we're 2-11. "
It's been 14 years since Izzo's lonely victory against Coach K and Duke before Sunday night. The last victory also came in the NCAA tournament when No. 5 seed Michigan State spent the top-seeded Blue Devils ahead of beating Kentucky and making the Final Four. The last fourth appearance came under the stretch that was probably the most successful of Izo's term as coach, leading the Spartans to a national championship in 2000 and six finals between 1999 and 2010.
No one would ever suggest that the Michigan State was in every kind of drought, but when you achieve NCAA Tournament success with that kind of consistency it becomes so frustrating when the next eight seasons only include a Final Four look in 2015 and that the Final Four tour ends with a loss for Duke, which at this time had already been established as a very large and apparent tower in the side of Izzo and Michigan State.
After three straight seasons that were not only smaller than the last four, but did not make it out of the first weekend of the NCAA tournament, this Michigan State Team put all the frustration in the last minutes of its back-and-forth with Duke on Sunday evening. The extra effort needed to play the lockdown defense denies Zion Williamson the ball and finish strong lies in the elastic and mental toughness that was established in a season that required the Spartans to overcome adversity over and over again.
"I can't tell you how comfortable it is because I know what these guys have been through," Izzo said. "Many think they know what they've been through. But there is something about being in these meetings. And I think the biggest meeting I had in 10 years was when Nick [Ward] went down, And I called everyone at 7:30 am the next morning, and I just said, "We need to meet and go over the situation and we won't change our goals."
"I can't tell you how comfortable it is, because I know what these guys have been through. " Michigan State coach Tom Izzo
" They really bought. I told our own media that it was a meeting that I didn't know if I was trying to pump them up or myself because I was down on it. But it was one that they adhered to. And they wanted to be coached. They wanted to be pushed. "
The injuries and setbacks should have made Michigan State a team that was not considered a Final Four participant and there were times this season when Izzo did not expect it to end in a deep race in March. But the leadership of Cassius Winston, Matt McQuaid and the rest of Michigan State's veterans kept Sparty hanging in, and as the selection son rolled around the big ten regular season's fellow champions and conference tournament games had appeared on the other side as a Final Four contender in every way except one: the fact that it landed in the eastern region with No. 1 overall seed dukes.
Here at CBS Sports, the numbers showed an overwhelming amount of support for Duke as the most popular national title pick with a fight 43 percent of bracket game contestants choose the blue devils to win the national title and an even more amazing 74 percent picking tablecloth to at least make the last four Perhaps in full force, with Joshua Langford in the lineup, Michigan State gets more public support. But considering the overwhelming talent advantage, most of the eastern regions saw dukes, and if the Spartans did Elite Eight, why wouldn't that matchup break like the last 14 seasons?
But when everything seems to have been set up for Duke, it is exactly when we should have seen things that break Izzo's way. When his first-round outbreak on Aaron Henry became a national voice point to take into account how the coaches communicated, Henry continued his best game of the season at Sweet 16 against LSU, and the whole team went behind his coach and supported his demanding style.