While the Big Ten football season continues to be a bit of a train wreck — with highly performing teams ineligible for the postseason and underwhelming teams lining up to reap the benefits of that — the looming basketball season is about as intriguing as they get.
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo says the league is 10 teams deep. His team may end up contending for the Big Ten title, but it was predicted by the media to finish fourth this past week, a prognostication that doesn’t seem to bother the veteran head coach.
Tom Izzo joined WDFN in Detroit with Shep and Sharp to discuss Michigan State being picked to finish fourth at Big Ten media day, the strength of the Big Ten, increased media and social media attention and finding a leader for his Spartans team.
Do you feel like an underdog? You weren’t picked in the top three by the media:
“I think I’ve gone through so many stages in my career, but the one stage I come up with is life is kind of about reality, you know? The reality of it is, the teams that are picked ahead of us probably deserve to be picked ahead of us. We’ve got some unanswered questions. Now, I like the pieces and the parts we have, but they haven’t been put together yet.”
On the strength of the Big Ten:
“It’s a good topic to ruin a good day. I said at media day that I think this conference is 10 deep right now, and I don’t want to go to Penn State just because Pat is such a good coach. And I don’t know as much about Tim [Miles], but Nebraska is Nebraska. … Everybody’s playing in front of packed houses, so it’s not easy to play on the road. But when you talk about, there’s six teams ranked in the top 25 in some polls, there’s some polls where four teams are ranked in the top 10. … Not to try to be Lou Holtz, but I think the league is ranked the best and there’s a bona fide reason for it.”
On increased media and social media:
“When we’re at that thing yesterday, that’s where Twitter and Facebook and those things really kill you, too … but you’re just thinking how much more news there is instantaneously. And you forget, as I’m sitting there talking, they’re asking me questions about Purdue and Illinois … and I left there saying, ‘You know what? There’s 12 sets of writers in there that think they’re team should be great. Somebody’s not going to make it.’”
Who’s the next guy to take over as your key leader?:
“What I learned in the last couple years, I learned that you can have teams with great leadership that do better than you thought they could do. Last year was maybe a little bit of an example. … A couple years, one or two years, I had really good talent and no leadership and struggled. But with the no leadership, in 2005 we did not have great leadership … but very good chemistry. This team right now does not have a great leader, but it has incredible chemistry, maybe some of the best I’ve had in recent years. So I’m hoping a leader will emerge.”