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Look out for Michigan State, especially after NCAA seeding insult

Michigan State players celebrate after beating Purdue for the Big Ten Tournament title on Sunday. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)

You have to go back to 2000 for the last time a Big Ten team won the NCAA men’s tournament.

Maybe the selection committee is punishing the conference for that drought. I can’t come up with a better explanation for why Michigan State, which won the Big Ten Tournament on Sunday, didn’t get a No. 1 seed in the tournament. Virginia, which won neither the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season title nor its postseason tournament, received one of the No. 1 seeds.

Fifteen years without a title is too long for a conference that prides itself on its basketball. Since Michigan State won the national title in 2000, six Big Ten teams have made it to the championship game, including Illinois in 2005. (Maryland won in 2002 when it was a member of the ACC and all was right with the world.)

It’s time.

Michigan State, a team that surely will be amped after being snubbed, is my pick to win the tournament. The Spartans, a second seed in the Midwest, are bruising and athletic, and in a field whose best 20 teams are good but not great, good might be enough.

It’s not an excellent year for college basketball, but we don’t come to the NCAA Tournament for excellence. We come to it for excitement. We come to it for a low seed upsetting a high seed. We come to it knowing for sure that something crazy will happen.

We clearly don’t come to it for Illinois representation. For the third straight season, no program from Illinois will be playing in the NCAA Tournament. We’re a red-faced state.

My suggestion is to adopt Michigan State. A great coach in Tom Izzo. A star in Denzel Valentine. And a guard named Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn Jr. The Spartans held off pesky Purdue to win the Big Ten Tournament on Sunday. Indiana won the regular-season title, but the Hoosiers lack Michigan State’s toughness.

Go with the Spartans. Not a great team, but a good-enough team, even if the selection committee might not agree.