The Spartans began their national championship season without starting point guard and team captain Mateen Cleaves, who sustained a stress fracture in his right foot during the offseason. Without Cleaves, the Spartans struggled through the non-conference schedule, finishing at 9-4, losing games to the Texas Longhorns (81-74), Arizona Wildcats (79-68), Kentucky Wildcats (60-58), and Wright State Raiders (53-49). On January 5, 2000, Cleaves returned to the Spartans lineup and helped propel them to a 15-3 conference record and a share of the Big Ten Regular Season Title (with Ohio State). The Spartans went on to win the third annual Big Ten Tournament as the #2 seed, culminating in a 76-61 win over Illinois. Cleaves and senior running mate Morris Peterson were named to the All-Tournament Team and Peterson was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player.
As a result of their strong finish, the Spartans were awarded the top seed in the Midwest Region of the NCAA Tournament. From there, the Spartans cruised to the championship game, winning every game by double digits. In the season finale, the Spartans triumped over the Florida Gators 89-76, despite losing Mateen Cleaves to an ankle injury 3:42 into the second half. Cleaves eventually returned, severely limping and in obvious pain, to lead the Spartans to the championship. Cleaves was subsequently named as the tournament's Most Outstanding Player. Joining Cleaves on the NCAA All-Tournament Team were Morris Peterson, Charlie Bell, and A.J. Granger.
Michigan State (#1 seed) 65, Valparaiso (#16 seed) 38