Team of the 2000s: #5- Michigan State

Posted by zhayes9 on August 15th, 2009

Ed. Note: Check the category
team of the 2000s for our other entries in this feature.

With the first five teams of our Team of the 2000s countdown here at Rush the Court out of the way, we can truly delve into the class of the decade. These are teams that didn’t just experience a couple years of peak success, but sustained prominence and positive standing throughout the ten seasons that are being considered. These are programs that first pop into the head of basketball fans when considering the cream of the crop not only in recent years, but throughout the annals of the sport’s illustrious history. The midpoint takes us to the Midwest. In fact, they’re the lone team from their conference on the list- the Michigan State Spartans.

#5 – Michigan State


Overview. While the Spartans did experience certain success during the Jud Heathcote era extending nearly 20 years in East Lansing, Michigan State battled through nine seasons of .500 or worse basketball in conference play during his tenure. Enter longtime assistant Tom Izzo, a passionate and in-your-face personality that immediately made marked improvement for the program, sending the Spartans to the NCAA second round in 1996 and 1997, followed by a Sweet 16 in 1998, a Final Four in 1999 and culminating in the program’s second national championship to kick off the decade of the 2000s. From there, Izzo has continued to deliver, sending the Spartans to the Final Four yet again in 2001 and winning 20 games every season in the decade with the exception of 19 and 18 wins in 2001-02 and 2003-04, respectively. Unlike some teams preceding the Spartans that have faded out of contention, Izzo has sent Michigan State to the tournament every single season in the 2000s (they didn’t have one losing season, either) and only two programs – Kansas and North Carolina – have averaged more NCAA wins than Michigan State (2.5 per tournament).


Pinnacle. Only two programs have sent their basketball teams to the Final Four on four separate occasions in the decade – North Carolina and Michigan State. The 2001 run is slightly tainted because the Spartans had to defeat a 16, 9, 12 and 11 seed to reach Minneapolis only to get throttled by Arizona, but give that team credit for collecting a #1 seed. The 2005 run is famous for the thrilling double-OT win over Kentucky involving Patrick Sparksfoot-on-the-line game-tying three. That Spartans team led at halftime against eventual champion UNC in the national semis before faltering. The 2009 run was also memorable with a gut-check win over Kansas and the dismantling of #1 seeds Louisville and Connecticut (gives me an excuse to show this). But the pinnacle is fairly easy to determine – the 2000 national title run behind Mateen Cleaves, Jason Richardson, Morris Peterson and Charlie Bell takes the cake. That juggernaut won every single NCAA Tournament game by double digits. Hey, even if it took place three months into the decade, it still counts.

Tailspin. Michigan State has been so consistent as a program over the course of the decade, it’s hard to pinpoint a specific tailspin similar to, say, Syracuse missing the tournament two years in a row. The one knock on Izzo has been his inability to win Big 10 conference regular season and tournament titles. This might stun you, but the Spartans did not win a single regular season title for six consecutive seasons in the middle of the decade and hasn’t won a Big 10 conference tournament since the 2000 national title season. My vote goes to 2005-06 and 2006-07: 16-16 in Big 10 play including a first round loss to George Mason in 2006 (that team faded away right after said upset).

Outlook for 2010s: Grade: A. Seriously, the Spartans are in TREMENDOUS shape as long as Tom Izzo is leading the charge, and he shows no signs of slowing down. Unlike Gary Williams’ struggles to recruit within the D.C./Baltimore region, Izzo perennially raids Michigan of its elite talent. Five and four star recruits Durrell Summers, Kalin Lucas, Draymond Green and incoming center Derrick Nix are all from Michigan and Izzo has extended his boundaries throughout the Midwest. Izzo not only collects lauded recruits, but they immediately buy into his hard-nosed system that has proven so effective. Izzo has run a notoriously clean program that graduates players at a high rate. The Breslin Center is one of the loudest arenas in college basketball. What’s not to like here? With another potential top-five team gracing the hardwood again this season, the future for Michigan State in the next decade is very bright.

zhayes9 (301 Posts)

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4 responses to “Team of the 2000s: #5- Michigan State”

  1. I was actually at that regional final where sparks hit that three. It was bonkers – they weren’t showing the replay on the screen and so we didn’t know if it was a two or a three – I was calling all of my friends to see if the replays on TV showed it.

    It’s the most incredible basketball moment I’ve ever seen live and until today, I’d never watched it on TV.

    Really underrated moment of the tournament, IMO, but that’s probably just because I was there.

  2. rtmsf says:

    The ball hanging on that rim was phenomenal. If that had been a game-winner, it would have been an all-time level shot in the annals.

  3. jstevrtc says:

    I don’t know if the admins of the boards will appreciate me saying this or not, but there’s great discussion of our Top 10 list happening at the message boards of some of the teams we’ve named so far. Great cases made to move teams up/down/off, etc. And it’s not just people blindly supporting their home team — as I say, there are legitimate points being made all over. Great stuff.

    Rush The Court guru RTMSF asked us, as individual contributors to the site, to make our rank-order lists for the Top 10 and turn them in to him, then he would tabulate the results and we’d have our list. I raised some eyebrows because I had Michigan State ranked as my #1 team of the 00s. That’s the beauty of all this, in my opinion. There are 5 teams that could make a great case for being the best of the decade and I love hearing the different ways in which people go about making that case in an intelligent manner. I hope it keeps up both here and on the individual teams’ boards.

    John Stevens (who, like Rush The Court, is now on Facebook)

  4. Jack says:

    As much as a Sparty fan as I am, I would like to point out that as great as Izzo is at getting kids from Michigan (the Flintstones, Suton from Lansing, Green from Saginaw, Nietzel and Paul Davis from the Grand Rapids area), he has had a very hard time making many inroads in the city of Detroit itself. Summers and Lucas are from Detroit, but I think they both played their ball in the ‘burbs (Lucas went to my high school, actually). I wish he would be able to get some of the better kids from the Detroit Public School powers like Pershing, Redford and Renaissance, but for some reason they always seem to have this fixation with playing at Michigan or they go elsewhere. Just off he top of my head, recently, Manny Harris and DeShawn Simms both chose U of M, and Joe Crawford, for some reason, chose Kentucky. If Izzo could just make it so that State is THE preferred destination for the blue chip kids from the D….boy, oh, boy he’d be set for life.

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