Michigan State has been in this position many times before. Tom Izzo knows all too well what it feels like to be backed against a wall with no option but to win.
The Spartans will need a mammoth effort on Thursday night to take down their rival, the Wisconsin Badgers.
A win would put Michigan State one step closer to their fourth Big Ten title in the past five seasons. This was made even more likely with an upset road win by Ohio State over Indiana earlier this week.
It was just a year ago when the Spartans needed a win in their final game of the season over the Buckeyes to win the conference title outright, but those same Buckeyes took them down on their senior night. That win was reminiscent of the Buckeye win over Indiana a few short days ago.
However, these Spartans are determined. With a win tonight against Wisconsin at home, Michigan State has a good chance of winning on Sunday as well. With an Indiana loss at Michigan on Saturday and the Spartans winning out, there would be a three-way tie for first place in the conference, at least.
Keith Appling knows that he needs to step up in order to make this scenario possible. He needs to step his game up after struggling for the better part of three weeks. After three straight losses, the 22-7 Spartans are poised to win their 23rd and 24th games of the season on their way to yet another conference title.
Michigan State is known for winning the big games–that’s how Izzo earned the nickname “Mr. March”. This name came about after he proved the experts wrong year after year, making deep runs in March part of his schedule every season.
When the Spartans weren’t given a chance to make a run in 2009, what did they do? Oh, just make the Final Four. In 2003, when Izzo’s team finished with 13 losses and a third place finish in the Big Ten, not many people expected even a Sweet 16 out of them but they made it to the Elite Eight.
After this season, Izzo will have taken the Spartans to 16 straight NCAA Tournaments, making it out of the first round all but four times and racing to six Final Fours.
If anyone knows how to win the clutch game, it’s Tom Izzo. The Wisconsin Badgers are in the position no one else in the world would want to be in tonight.