Leave it to Tom Izzo and Michigan State to enter the Elite Eight as the underdog and leave as the experienced favorite in the 2019 Final Four.How many schools could pull that act off? The Spartans have won 32 games, earned a share of the the Big Ten regular-season title, won the conference tournament championship and will make that trip to the Final Four for the eighth time under Izzo. No. 2 Michigan State upset No. 1 Duke 68-67 in the East Region final on Sunday, effectively knocking out freshman phenoms Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett while simultaneously setting up the grittiest Final Four possible with No. 3 Texas Tech, No. 5 Auburn and No. 1 Virginia — the lone top seed left in the tournament.SN’s MARCH MADNESS HQLive NCAA bracket | Live scoreboard | Full TV scheduleThe Red Raiders and Tigers are first-time Final Four participants, and the Cavaliers have not been there since 1984. Make no mistake: The Spartans are the favorites now. That’s why this run, more than any other Final Four run under Izzo, reflects what we should have believed all along. Izzo is going to do this his way, and that will give the Spartans a chance to break the conference-wide national championship drought that stretches back to Michigan State’s title from the 2000 NCAA Tournament.The knee-jerk reaction will circle back to the one-and-done debate, given that the veteran Spartans were able to absorb Williamson (24 points, 14 rebounds) and Barrett (21 points, six assists, six rebounds). Barrett hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 2:27 remaining. Williamson drove for a basket and a 66-63 lead next.This looked like Duke was going to survive.But Xavier Tillman hit a layup off a feed from Winston. Fifth-year senior Kenny Goins hit the go-ahead 3-pointer for the Spartans. Barrett missed one of two free throws in the final seconds, and Michigan State took advantage of the Blue Devils’ lack of fouls.MICHIGAN STATE TAKES DOWN DUKE!pic.twitter.com/xSUr7aLgSs— Sporting News (@sportingnews) March 31, 2019The symbolism here is obvious, especially for a Michigan State team that battled back from a nine-point deficit in the first half and never let the Blue Devils take total control. Izzo did this his way, not the way everybody else does it.He tried that, once. The Spartans can win 30 games with NBA Lottery picks. They did that last year with a team led by Jaren Jackson Jr. And Miles Bridges. But that team lost in the second round to 11-seed Syracuse. This year’s team is everything Izzo has thrived with in East Lansing.This Spartans team stayed under the radar, despite all those accomplishments. They weathered injuries throughout the season. They swept rival Michigan in three high-profile meetings. They deserved a No. 1 seed, and this was their own special way of proving it. Cassius Winston — a first-team Sporting News All-American — put up 20 points and 10 assists, leading an attack that committed just seven turnovers to Duke’s 17.MORE: Selection committee should be embarrassed for mishandling SpartansThis victory at least partially vindicates that Big Ten style of basketball that is not lottery pick-dependent. Consider that the Big Ten has produced just 21 such players since the 2000 NBA Draft. Kentucky (18), Duke (16) and North Carolina (10), all teams that lost in the NCAA Tournament’s second weekend, have combined for 44 in the same stretch. Those three schools also have combined for seven national championships since the Spartans won it all in 2000, a stretch that has seen Big Ten teams go 0-7 in the national championship game.Basically, the Big Ten has been good enough to send a handful of teams that can do well in the first weekend, plus a couple teams capable of getting to the Final Four. But the league hasn’t been good enough to win a national championship in a long time.It looked like that would be the case again. Michigan lost in the Sweet 16. Purdue lost an Elite Eight heartbreaker to Virginia. The Wolverines and Boilermakers were better bets to get to Minneapolis because they did have to go through Duke.Michigan State was not supposed to win this game. Izzo had a 1-11 record against Duke and coach Mike Krzyzewski coming into the matchup. He was criticized in an overblown incident for yelling at Aaron Henry during the first-round victory against Bradley. Those short-term criticisms ignored the family-style give-and-take Izzo has with his players, and in turn Izzo did not back down from the criticism.Duke, meanwhile, had the most captivating college basketball player of the decade — probably the millennium — in Williamson, SN’s 2018-19 Player of the Year. The Blue Devils had survived two close calls in the previous two rounds, but it was assumed this would be the next step in another national championship run for Coach K and a group of players that will overrun the 2019 NBA Draft.MORE: 5 key stats from Michigan State’s upset of DukeIzzo changed that in a victory with a methodology that hasn’t changed since 2000. The Spartans, then, emerged as the biggest victor over the weekend for their grind-it-out-defense and timely baskets.They will have good company in the Final Four. Texas Tech — a team that, like the Spartans, dismantled Michigan in the Sweet 16 — is the next matchup. The Red Raiders have the nation’s best scoring defense and future lottery pick in Jarrett Culver. Auburn just knocked off Kansas, North Carolina and Kentucky in order. Virginia is 0-3 against the Spartans, but Michigan State just proved how little those historical stats mean this time of year.There are two more games to win — or those same questions will return. Michigan State can reclaim its spot on the national championship podium, or settle for yet another bronze medal banner in the Final Four.Win or lose, don’t count on Izzo to change that approach. Sunday’s win proved that act hasn’t worn thin yet.