The March Madness powerhouse Michigan State University Spartans are bringing basketball and faith to the 2016 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament.

MSU teammates Matt Van Dyk and Matt Costello found a common bond in basketball, but they found one in faith, too.

Matt Van Dyk, a redshirt junior walk-on, grew up on a large lettuce farm in rural Imlay City, Michigan. Van Dyk Farms owns over 600 acres of land about 35 miles due east of Flint, Michigan. Consequently, Matt Van Dyk knows how to work hard—the farm is all he’s ever known. Van Dyk is an Agribusiness Management major and plans to return to the farm after graduation.

“He knows what it’s like to get up early and go after it, whether it’s farming or in the gym,” said Matt’s dad, Doug Van Dyk last year, when Matt walked on the MSU Spartan roster just before the 2015 NCAA tournament. This is the first season Matt Van Dyk has been eligible to play for the Spartans, though he’s been working out and practicing with the team since 2014. Rumor has it he can jump impressively high.

Matt Costello is a senior studying Interdisciplinary Studies with an emphasis on economics. He’s from Linwood, Michigan with an impressive stats sheet and has even been called MSU basketball’s “ultimate good guy.” Growing up with a solid faith foundation, Costello realized he needed more than just basketball at college. Costello found the MSU division of Athletes in Action, and eventually the Spartan Christian Fellowship, too.

Van Dyk and Costello have a home-away-from-home at MSU, but it’s not just because of basketball.

Van Dyk and Costello: Faithful Teammates

Matt Costello and Matt Van Dyk connected right away as teammates, but they found a deeper bond, too—faith.

“[Costello] and I are always arguing theology together—it’s kind of funny. We’re always reading our Bible and talking about it together. It’s really helped having him here,” said Matt Van Dyk, who attends Imlay City Christian Reformed Church when he’s home.

Matt Van Dyk and Matt Costello, along with their two roommates and fellow Spartan athletes Josiah Price and Ryan Haag, meet with Spartan Christian Fellowship director Jonathan Saunders for a weekly Bible study.

“It seems like every night all four of us talk to one another about what we believe. We challenge each other and keep each other accountable. It’s been an awesome living situation,” Van Dyk told Matt Bontorin of MSU Athletics Communication.

Spartan Christian Fellowship is an extension of University Reformed Church (URC), in East Lansing, led by pastor and author Kevin DeYoung. The church welcomes all people, but has a unique ministry to area college students, with vans picking up students each Sunday at the north and south campuses of MSU.

In an interview with URC Pastor Kevin DeYoung, Matt Costello said the Gospel “puts things in perspective” for him.

“My ultimate identity is not found in what Coach [Tom Izzo] thinks of me or how many times a ball goes through a hoop. My identity securely rests in the blood of Jesus,” Matt Costello told DeYoung for The Gospel Coalition.

Another Ticket To The Big Dance

Michigan State University Spartans won the 2016 Big Ten Championship last Sunday, March 13. The Spartans are a number two seed for the NCAA Division I Men’s basketball tournament. Last year, the Spartans were defeated in the Final Four round by Duke University, another traditionally strong force in post-season play.

First round games begin Thursday, March 17, 2016.

This year, Matts Van Dyk and Costello are, of course, hoping for an even longer March Madness run than last year. But win or no win, their faith and their friendship remain. But, let’s be honest—who doesn’t like winning?