Tom Izzo knows a thing or two about being the number one team in the nation. His track record of 429 wins over his 18 years as a head coach speaks for itself. Izzo has also expressed many times over the years that he doesn’t want the Big Ten to ever be a one trick pony with just one good team. He thinks a better league makes a better Michigan State. I agree.
So with Michigan now at #1 in the nation, Izzo talked about having a Big Ten team #1 for now. Izzo said, “Sure. It’s always good to have a team number one. It’s good to have five teams in the top 20. It’s good to have four teams in the top ten. If you think I’m advocating that I want Michigan to be number one, you’d have to be on Dial a Clue. But at the same time, they deserve it right now. They deserve it.”
But Izzo didn’t stop at UM. He went on to talk about some respect for the conference. “ I’m a little disappointed that in a way our league has gotten a lot of respect, and in a way I’m questioning if it has. It’s interesting. We beat up one another a little bit, and some of those teams dropped I thought more than they should have dropped. Other teams don’t go through that and they can beat up on their leagues that aren’t as good, so we’ll see how the Pac 10 ends up and we’ll see how the SEC ends up, but right now I think we have a lot of teams that deserve to be in that top 20 and a couple in the top ten. Indiana and Michigan, as I said right now I think are a head above the rest in this league. And yet the other teams in this league that are right behind them are pretty good teams and are going to be in a lot of games.”
Michigan State is the only team in the nation to beat Kansas. The Spartans took them down on November 13, in a 67-64 tilt. The Jayhawks are #1 in the coach’s poll, but Izzo wasn’t through with his praise of the Wolverines.
Izzo said, “Coaches are stupid. You know, Kansas is a good team. Like I said, I’ll probably gain enemies and gain friends, but I think Michigan deserves to be number one. I mean if you look at their body of work, if you look at the consistency they’ve played with, if you look at those two guards, Hardaway and Burke, they can control a game. They’ve been solid. If I had a vote, I’d have to vote them number one even though it’s your rival. Who wants to do that? But I also have respect for what they’ve accomplished and what they’ve done. And I respect Kansas too. I suppose I should be happy. We’re the only team that beat them, but I just look at the whole thing and the conference they’re playing in, who they’ve played, and it kind of surprises me.”
With his proven record of success Izzo knows the good and the bad that come with the ranking. He talked about that pressure being both. Izzo pontificated about the number one spot, ““You know, I guess it can be. You look at them and say well they’ve got some young guys on their team, but their two main horses and their one inside are veteran guys that have started a lot of games. And Beilein’s been around a long time. Is it a burden? I don’t know if it’s a burden. I could look at the other side of it and say it’s a privilege, especially if you’ve earned it. They’re sitting there 18-1 playing the schedule and the conference they’re playing in, that’s earned. So if it’s earned rather than given I don’t think it’s a burden.”
It may be hard for him to do, but Izzo knows that the Big Ten does a good job of beating itself up. It may come reluctantly, but if the Spartans can’t carry the moniker of being #1, he is fine with the Wolverines wearing it. He still has at least two chances to take it from them this year. Don’t think he isn’t looking ahead to February 12, early in March and perhaps in Chicago for the B1G Tournament when his Spartans will take on the #1 Wolverines.