Michigan State is attempting to win a Big Ten tournament title in Chicago.
At the same time, coach Tom Izzo and point guard Cassius Winston are rooting for their alma maters, which are playing for boys basketball state championships in East Lansing.
Izzo’s Iron Mountain High School (27-0) will face Pewamo-Westphalia (27-0) in Saturday’s Division 3 state championship at the Breslin Center. That game will tip off about four hours after Winston’s Detroit U-D Jesuit (25-2) will face Ypsilanti Lincoln (22-4) for the Division 1 state title.
Izzo said he and former high school teammate, and famous Iron Mountain graduate, Steve Mariucci are teaming up to ensure the Mountaineers feel welcome in East Lansing.
“I made sure Mooch and I are going to take care of those guys,” Izzo said after Michigan State beat Ohio State 77-70 in a Big Ten tournament quarterfinal on Friday. “They’ll get a little dinner tonight. I think they’re 27-0. Man, that blew away what Mariucci and I did there, and they’re playing in the state finals.”
Winston, the Big Ten Player of the Year, is only three years removed from leading U-D Jesuit to a state title in East Lansing. Now he’s rooting for his Cubs — with a roster that includes his younger brother, Khy — to claim a second program championship while knocking off Lincoln and Emoni Bates, one of the top freshmen in the nation.
“U of D’s going to win that for the state championship,” Winston said. “I feel bad for Emoni, that’s my guy, but the Cubs got that one.”
Iron Mountain knocked off defending Class C state champion Detroit Edison 60-57 in a semifinal on Thursday. The Mountaineers are now chasing the program’s first state title since a Class B Upper Peninsula-only championship in 1939.
“The nice thing about the U.P. … there’s towns up there but once a team makes it to the state, they all claim they’re just Yoopers,” said Izzo, who wore gold and black on Friday in honor of the Mountaineers. “The whole Upper Peninsula claims you. So, I’ve got a lot of people pulling for us from a lot of places.”
Iron Mountain arrived in East Lansing on Wednesday and was greeted by Izzo. The following day, the team watched the Spartans practice at the Breslin Center.
“I took them down on the floor,” Izzo said. “All these guys that probably haven’t been out of the U.P. much, I felt like we were in ‘Hoosiers.’ I said ‘should I measure the rim?’ Should I tell them what it’s like. It was pretty awesome. Tonight, though, I hope they have a meal on Steve and I and tomorrow win a championship.”