How Michigan State basketball beat Minnesota in the BTT and what it means

Michigan State guard Jaden Akins (3) dribbles against Minnesota guard Cam Christie (24) during the
Michigan State guard Jaden Akins (3) dribbles against Minnesota guard Cam Christie (24) during the / Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

With one (1) victory in the Big Ten Tournament in the books, Michigan State basketball all but sealed an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament.

While there were certainly some questions about the Spartans' fate had they lost to Minnesota, the players that were supposed to play well in March played well in this game. It started out like a Spartan game, struggling offensively while the Gophers made their first three shots for a quick 7-0 lead. Once the Spartans found their groove, it was rock fight until the Spartans pulled away late.

Here's how they won, even when it seemed like Minnesota was poised to take over.

How they won

Guard play on both ends of the floor.

Offensively, AJ Hoggard made all of his shots, including layups which cannot be stressed enough how astonishing that is. Yes, he had some horrendous turnovers, but late in that game when the Spartans needed a bucket, he showed up.

Same with Tyson Walker.

While he was cold from anything outside of 1.5 feet, he made clutch buckets and free throws in the biggest spots.

When Walker and Hoggard were cold or weren't on the court, it was sophomore Tre Holloman who stepped up. He played the least amount of minutes among MSU guards, but he made every single one of his 21 count with nine points (perfect from the field), four assists, two steals, and a block.

But the player who had the biggest impact was Jaden Akins (finally). After nearly a month of a shooting slump, he took smart shots (4-for-6 from the field, 1-for-1 from deep) and was flying all over the court, grabbing rebounds, putting back missed shots from the center, and getting back-to-back steals on the defensive end at a time where Minnesota needed a bucket.

Tom Izzo said that he has faith in this team to make a run because of his guards and they showed that today. They accounted from 14 of their 19 assists, 13 of their 30 rebounds, and 50 of their 77 points. When the guards play like they did in the second half, the Spartans are an incredibly tough team to beat. When they turn the ball over and can't knock down shots, they give teams like Minnesota a chance for an upset.

What it means

First and foremost, it means that the Spartans will be in the NCAA Tournament for the 26th straight season. While the regular season was a massive disappointment, the team still has a shot to leave a memorable legacy, which at this time, lacks any type of banner. It's unlikely they beat Purdue in the Big Ten Tournament and also, it's almost impossible for this team to carry any momentum over from game to game.

For now, we'll enjoy a victory, take our lumps against Purdue, and pray for a favorable spot from the selection committee. Who knows, if they keep shooting 55 percent of from the field, anything is possible.

Just survive and advance.

3 takeaways from Big Ten Tournament win over Minnesota. 3 takeaways from Big Ten Tournament win over Minnesota. dark. Next