Tom Izzo Is Keeping the Streak Alive

March 18, 2010 – 9:50 am by timgunter

Michigan State is making its thirteenth-straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament as it opens as the fifth seed in the Midwest Region against the number twelve seed New Mexico State.  The Spartans current NCAA streak is the third-longest in the nation behind Kansas and Duke.  They shared the Big Ten regular season championship with Ohio State and Purdue, but they fell short in the conference tournament and lost to Minnesota.  The Aggies should pose a threat to the Spartans as they are a highly explosive offensive team.  The Aggies have five players averaging double figures but none of them really know how to play defense or rebound as they rank near the bottom nationally in scoring defense and rebounding margin.  New Mexico State has been winning the close games, posting a perfect 8-0 record in games decided by five points or less, but this game will not be close at all.  Michigan State will bounce back from a defeat to Minnesota and drub New Mexico State.  As for how far MSU will go really depends on whether the players show up to play.  Every four-year player recruited by Tom Izzo has appeared in at least one Final Four before leaving Michigan State, but I am not sure if that will happen this year.  However, I do see them going to the Sweet 16.

Tom Izzo joined WIP in Philadelphia with Howard Eskin and Ike Reese (former Spartan football player) to talk about whether he has seen his team grow since the loss to North Carolina earlier in the season, whether it is hard to get his team excited to play in the conference tournament knowing that they are a lock for the NCAA Tournament, and what his formula is for winning games in the NCAA Tournament.

Whether he has seen his team grow since the loss to North Carolina earlier in the season:

“Well, number one, they were a little better then.  They have had some injuries and I think once their confidence went they young guys went down in the tank.  That is why I brought in a Knute Rockne-Reese.  I brought you in there to speak to those guys about it.  It is funny Ike, the things we did talk about there and they have kind of reared their ugly head throughout the year and it doesn’t mean anyone is bad it just means we never really had that leadership where I am big on a player-coached team over a coach-coached team.  You know in football, you can have a good coach and when those eleven guys are in the huddle with thirty seconds left and you are on the two-yard line your coach isn’t doing anything.  It is what goes on in that huddle.  It is kind of that way, what goes on the court.  Coaches can where their nice suits and make money and all of this stuff but players play the game.”

Whether it is hard to get his team excited to play in the conference tournament knowing that they are a lock for the NCAA Tournament:

“It shouldn’t be.  I think if I had some of the guys I had even back…  Probably Cleaves and Petersen, but those guys would have competed if it was checkers.  You know Magic Johnson, you hear the Larry Bird stories.  Ike Reese, I know when he was here he would have competed if they were playing a division II or Ohio State, but not everybody is like that and I think around the country coaches really play on this.  Tubby Smith did a great job this year of playing on this.  ‘This is the only way we can get to the tournament.’  Are you going to be a little bit more hungry?  I hate to say it disappoints me but I guess realistically the answer is, yes.  I don’t know if it is hard to get them up but I do like your quote.  I question whether they have outdid themselves.  We moved to eighteen games in the Big Ten from sixteen plus the tournament.  It just seems like we are beating the hell out of each other everyday.”

On his change of philosophy from recruiting the one-and-done players to more “project” players:

“Well you are right there with Jay Wright who I think is a heck of a coach.  He has really built it the right way but I got to tell you this Ike:  I am not turning down any of those seven-footers that want to go one-and-done.  Bu if you were a producer, I would be a little disappointed in you.  I mean you could have done that for me and sent me one.  The truth is that it is hard.  You look at Billy Donovan and they have lost some guys every year.  You look at some guys that have really been in trouble in the Pac-10 right now, UCLA.  When you lose a lot of freshman and sophomores it is hard.  It is hard to keep any consistency, any continuity.  It is hard to bring guys in that want to play for the university and the alums like yourself and that is what I enjoy about college…  I had Zach Randolph and I love Zach.  I still talk to him to this day.  Jason Richardson was two years and out.  I mean if it is right for them, Zach and JR helped me get to another Final Four.  I would be good with that.  I don’t think that we could get the players that Cal gets at Kentucky.  I am not sure that I would enjoy four guys coming in and four guys leaving every year because I don enjoy the relationship.  But if you two guys can find a seven-footer that Jay doesn’t want over there and he wants to be one and done, call me.”

What his formula is for winning games in the NCAA Tournament:

“Well we have made a run a lot of years, Ike, and some years we have made it is a seventh seed, five seed, two seed, we have done it different ways.  It is not always great teams but I don think our guard play has been good.  I do think our rebounding has been good.  It doesn’t do any good to play good defense.  It would be your version of playing good defense for three downs and on fourth and three give up a first down.  When we stop a team, the defense doesn’t finisih until we get the rebound.  Some people say that we are a good defensive team but we are not a good rebounding team or some people say that and I say, ‘How could you be a good defensive team?  We didn’t finish the job.’  I think that has been important.  I think two, we have a system here.  I have got great assistants.  We kind of have a system when our mangers video.  We have a real good preparation for tournament time and I think the quick turnarounds, if you play Friday, I think only once or twice if we won on the first night we have won on the second because we have a very good system for quick turnarounds.”

Tom Izzo on WIP in Philly with Howard Eskin and Ike Reese

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