March Madness 2012: Michigan State Basketball's Path To NCAA Tournament

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 11: Draymond Green #23 of the Michigan State Spartans reacts against the Ohio State Buckeyes during the Final Game of the 2012 Big Ten Men's Conference Basketball Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 11, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Michigan State is going dancing for the 15th year in a row. In the 2012 NCAA tournament, the Spartans will try to make another Final Four and win their third national championship.

For the 15th year in a row, Michigan State is headed to the NCAA tournament. The Spartans received a No. 1 seed in the 2012 NCAA tournament bracket and will take on LIU Brooklyn on Friday in Columbus.

For Michigan State, this has been a season of redemption. 2010-11 was miserable for Michigan State and especially for head coach Tom Izzo. The Spartans had a down year in which they were on the bubble for the NCAA tournament, and once in the tournament, they were eliminated after only one game.

The reason last season was so disappointing is because expectations were so high. Michigan State started the season ranked second in the preseason polls and was expected to contend for another Final Four appearance. Instead, the Spartans contended only for a spot in the field of 68 to keep their tournament streak going.

This season was the complete opposite for MSU. There were no expectations before the season. Michigan State wasn't even ranked, and nobody really knew what to expect. The thinking was the Spartans would be better than last season, but that wasn't exactly saying much.

Although Michigan State lost its first two games of the season, to North Carolina and Duke, they provided a good idea of what to expect the rest of the season. The Spartans played both the Tar Heels and Blue Devils really tough, and after those two games they went on to win 15 in a row. The Spartans did stumble a bit in January by losing two games in a row, to Northwestern and Michigan, and they also dropped an ugly game to Illinois. After that, however, Michigan State won six in a row.

In the final week of the regular season, Michigan State lost on the road to Indiana and at home on Senior Day to Ohio State. That loss to the Buckeyes really stung Tom Izzo, as it cost Michigan State the outright Big Ten title. MSU still got a share of the title, but the finish to the season was disappointing.

For Izzo, I'd say the last three days in Indianapolis have made up for the disappointment in the final week of the regular season. Michigan State blew out Iowa and Wisconsin and then beat Ohio State in a thrilling game with the Big Ten tournament title on the line. The victory propelled the Spartans to a No. 1 seed and sets them up very nicely for the 2012 NCAA tournament, where they will look to make another run to the Final Four.

For more on Michigan State, visit The Only Colors. For more coverage of the Spartans in the 2012 NCAA tournament, visit SB Nation Detroit's StoryStream. Click here for a link to our NCAA bracket 2012.

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