Sunday's second-round matchup between 3-seed Michigan State and 11-seed Syracuse will mark just the seventh meeting all-time between the two storied programs, and just the second game head-to-head in the NCAA Tournament.
MSU fans should have fond memories of the first such matchup against the Orange, which was also the first ever meeting all-time. It took place way back in 2000 during the Sweet 16, played at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
The No. 1 seed Spartans found themselves down 10 at halftime against the No. 4 Orange, and eventually down 11 early into the second half. That's when MSU turned things around right quick. A 15-0 spurt swung the momentum in favor of Michigan State and they would never look back.
MSU outscored Syracuse 51-24 in the second half to help spurn a 75-58 victory in the Midwest Regional semifinals, eventually en route to their second national championship in program history. In that game against the Orange, Michigan State saw all five of its starters reach double-figures in points, including a game-high from “Flint-stone” Morris Peterson. In fact, the Spartan starting five accounted for all but two of the team's points in that game.
That's the lone win in the all-time series for MSU. The five victories for Syracuse have come in the regular season. Fast forward to the present, where Hall of Fame coaches Tom Izzo and Jim Boeheim will reunite once more with a Sweet 16 berth on the line.
Boeheim has long considered the “hard-charging” Izzo as not only one of his good friends in the sport, but “one of the great coaches” college basketball has ever seen.
“There's no guy that has better character that you would want to be your head coach more than Tom Izzo,” Boeheim said. “I've seen countless situations where I've been around him where he always does the right thing, 100 percent of the time. Tom Izzo would never do the wrong thing. And anybody that thinks other than that, they don't know Tom Izzo. I know him.”
The road to a national championship in 2000 for Michigan State involved both playing in the state of Michigan and one game against Syracuse. Such a possible run here 18 years later will involved both of those components.
The Spartans and the Orange will take the floor on Sunday, March 18 at approximately 2:40 p.m. ET in downtown Detroit at Little Caesars Arena.