Michigan State, before and after

High number of 3s, lower foul rate separates a healthy Spartans team

Updated: March 29, 2014, 3:34 AM ET
By John Gasaway | ESPN Insider

Adreian Payne Bruce Bennett/Getty ImagesIn Big Ten play prior to March 1, 38 percent of the Spartans' shot attempts were from beyond the arc.

The Michigan State Spartans' hard-fought and tense 61-59 win over the Virginia Cavaliers lifted the Spartans into the Elite Eight and gave Tom Izzo his eighth appearance in a regional final. (He's 6-1 in those games to this point, in case you're interested.) MSU will now play the Connecticut Huskies in Madison Square Garden for a chance to move on to Arlington, Texas, and the Final Four.

It's only fitting that Izzo's team will end the month playing for a shot at a regional semifinal. Fitting because, though it may seem like a long time ago, it was actually within in this very same month -- on March 1 -- that Michigan State welcomed Branden Dawson back to the rotation. Dawson had been sidelined for nine games because of a broken hand, and his absence came on top of previous foot injuries suffered by Gary Harris and Adreian Payne, not to mention an ailing wrist that briefly put Keith Appling out of action.

When Dawson returned to the lineup, however, the Spartans were at long last healthy and whole. And then, well, you know the rest.

MSU is still alive, playing for a shot at the title.