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Michigan State's Tom Izzo: I think Kansas is a helluva team

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Michigan State guard Miles Bridges (22) pushes the ball up the court during the second half on Friday, March 17, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Michigan State guard Miles Bridges (22) pushes the ball up the court during the second half on Friday, March 17, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. by Nick Krug

Tulsa, Okla. — A few minutes after Michigan State put the final touches on a 78-58 victory over Miami in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday, MSU coach Tom Izzo was asked about his thoughts of Kansas.

Izzo saw bits and pieces of KU’s first-round win over UC Davis, waiting for his team to take the court afterward.

“I only saw a little bit of them tonight, thank God,” Izzo said. “I saw the good part when they were only up four with eight minutes left and then they burned UC Davis. But they got a good team, veteran team. They got all those seniors, juniors and Josh (Jackson) is a heck of a player.”

During the regular season, Michigan State posted a 7-9 record against teams in the NCAA Tournament, which included non-conference losses to Arizona, Kentucky, Baylor and Duke.

Facing three teams that were ranked No. 1 at some point during the season, the Spartans should be comfortable preparing to play top competition.

“I think Kansas is a helluva team, and I think (Frank) Mason is an exceptional guard,” Izzo said. “I thought Josh is playing at a very high level. But we've played a lot of big teams all year. Maybe we can use this again, and yet, they're kind of playing in their own backyard. It's going to be fun.”

MSU guard Tum Tum Nairn added: “They are a really, really great team. They are a well-coached team. It is going to be a tough game and we look forward to it.” 

The ninth-seeded Spartans (20-14) certainly have shown their youth and inexperience at times this season, plus they’ve dealt with season-ending injury to senior guard Eron Harris, a West Virginia transfer.

But most of those problems disappeared during their 20-point victory over Miami. Freshmen Nick Ward and Miles Bridges combined for 37 points and 16 rebounds.

“We get to work again,” Izzo said. “I told my guys all I want to do is work another night and get a chance to go against one of the top teams.”

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