With an Impressive 17-3 record and a 6-1 B1G claim the Michigan State Spartans have a chance to make a big statement nationally if they can go to Bloomington, IN this weekend and pull off the upset. Now don’t get all moody, thinking that using the term upset implies Michigan State is not a good team. They are and they have the talent to win the nation’s elite conference.
Head Coach Tom Izzo knows that a win this weekend would mean. He talked about it saying, “I said I’ve caused our own problems. I don’t perceive us as the elite of the elite yet and so I think why would people? And when I say people, I mean national people. I think when you look at who we’ve lost to. It was Bruce Weber the other day that I talked to and somehow in the conversation he said, ‘Well, we played Kansas, and you’re the only team that’s beaten them.’ And there are some things that we’ve done. We’ve lost to Miami. They didn’t look so bad last night. So just that some of our wins haven’t been as pretty. But it’s not all because of us, either.”
When you play people, who’s out and so many details go in to a win and Izzo acknowledged those variables. “Sometimes it’s the people we’re playing. And so, yeah, it’s a big chance on a national stage to take another step forward. But as I said, and I’m going to caution everybody, especially my guys, there’s no one game right now. There’s too many games left. And as I stated with Minnesota, all of sudden you lose two and you get down and people get down on you and then it turns into three and four, and I think that’s still, until I figure out where we are, you play everybody once, then you get a real idea where we are, I’m going to still stay that way, make just we keeping taking it one game at a time.”
The Spartans have played in seven close games this season, settled by four or less points. Those tight games are why Izzo schedules the way he does and he addressed that. “”That’s what everybody keeps saying to me. We’ve found a way to win close games. That shows some character in a team. I think there is some truth to that and I do think there is a calming influence at the end of games, the last three minutes where we know we can make free throws, we know we can make plays, we know we can come out of huddles and do things right, we know we can make a stop. I think all those things are very positive things but at the same time some of those games maybe we shouldn’t be in that spot at the end and that would be better too. We’re looking at it both ways. Right now what I’m really concerned with is getting our offense a little bit better and getting our guys confident shooting. When guys pass up shots, I told them in the huddle that means you’re not confident. And don’t look over at me like I’m telling you now to shoot. If it’s an inside out shot I want you to shoot. So that’s again part of the process.”
To me this game is set perfectly on the Michigan State schedule. Before the year no one gave the Spartans a chance to win. Even now it is a long shot. So does Izzo parlay that into a can’t lose situation? He wouldn’t go that far with my questions, but he did acknowledge the Hoosiers have more pressure. “House money you think this week? Not really cause I look at it like you said about last year. You’ve got to have some signature wins too and it just depends on what your dreams and goals are in this program. It’s not to go down there and play good. I think we understand that every year we’re playing for something special at the end of the year and to do that you’ve got to win as many games as you can. You never know how other teams respond to things, I think like everybody stated that I heard is there is always more pressure on the home team right now because everybody is assuming that the top team’s got to win at home and they’re gonna lose some games on the road so there’s more pressure I think on the home team. But I don’t feel any pressure, I feel excitement. I think we’re making progress and then I watch games last night and teams get beat by 20 and 30 that I have great respect for and you just realize on any given night right now it’s keeping your guys focused on the task and that is what coaches all around the country are trying to master.”
I am not much into January games as being of the monster in size variety. This is truly a monster. Izzo doesn’t want to embrace it, but his Spartans have nothing to lose. A loss at IU doesn’t end their conference title hopes, but a win puts them in the driver’s seat. This is big, and this will be exciting.