With a terrific season just concluded, Tom Izzo has to look back. He didn’t get to be successful spending much time with a rearview mirror. That is why even with looking back it is hard for him to not keep glancing ahead to next year.
He waxed poetic when saying, “This team will be something that I think a lot of people should look at and realize talent isn’t the only thing. You have to have chemistry. Chemistry and maybe a talent, maybe a talent in itself, a 7‑foot center or a great point guard. It’s very important to have no matter what you’re trying to accomplish in life, if you’re trying to accomplish great things.”
Izzo lives for March. He lives for the excitement and pressure of Final Fours and even with his wounds still fresh from losing in the Sweet Sixteen; he couldn’t hide his pride for this past team. He said, “As far as the team goes, what do I say. We’re ranked high in a lot of areas. In rebounding we’re still ranked high. Our offense is up better than most, 29 wins was impressive. The ten Sweet 16 is now a milestone and I think we can continue to try to build on.
But I think if I looked at some numbers that were the most important to me, it was playing 12 of the top 50 teams in the country and beating them. Half our games were against RPI top 50 teams. This year proved it was the toughest Big Ten schedule out there because of our one plays, and it was ranked one or two in the nation in strength of schedule or two or three in RPI. I think that speaks volumes.
The 107 wins that Day‑Day and Austin accumulated over there in four years, fourth or fifth best in our history. The 39.9 field goal percentage was the best since the 50’s when Judd was here. It was unbelievable. But I think we also ranked fairly high in some offensive skills, which was better for this team. I think it proved that our inside game, the improvement of it has been good.
I think with some of the wins we’ve had early on the road, Purdue and Wisconsin and Gonzaga and Ohio State were monumental. There is no question that Draymond Green had a banner year, maybe one of the best in MSU history. If you look at all his stats and what he did, what he’s first and third in, tenth in. They were all things that helped us win. But I thought he said it best that his teammates helped him accomplish.”
I have maintained for over a month when looking ahead to next season is that this team may have more talent, but their Achilles heel will be leadership. I asked time if that assumption was correct? “Yeah, I think that’s a fair assumption. It’s even taught me a little something, because I always knew it was important. But I think it even took me to a different level this year. When I talk about hotels and airplanes and locker rooms and things like that, I always thought it was important. But now it’s beyond important for two reasons. One reason is there are so many selfish kids. There are selfish parents, selfish coaches, everybody’s so selfish that kids are a product of the environment they’re in.
When that environment where they probably spend even more time than they do on the practice field, and you have the right guys in there, without coaches, so much more can be gained or lost so that’s going to be very high on our list.
Yet in no way, shape or form am I thinking it’s going to be as good as it was this year. That’s unrealistic right now unless somebody comes out of the‑‑ I mean, I’m hoping it becomes good. This year was incredible. I’m hoping it becomes really good if we can get going. Good and real good, along with those other intangibles of new guys coming in. Maybe a new foundation where those freshmen understand there’s only one way to do it. There are not a couple different ways to do it. I think all those things will help.”
I feel bad for this year’s team. It was one of the best teams ever at MSU and it is disappointing for them that we have to move on already, but we do. The 2013 Spartans will have talent. There will not be one position that a reasonable person can’t look at with optimism for a successful season.
The number one weakness will be leadership. Do they have it? Will they have it? I will talk more about that on Monday. As for now, let’s appreciate what 2012 brought us, but like Izzo start glancing ahead.