Michigan State vs. Iowa: Get Ready for a Fight!
If you based your thoughts on who would win tonight’s matchup with Michigan State and Iowa on my Twitter feed or by listening to many Spartans, the Hawkeyes shouldn’t show up. Unfortunately for Tom Izzo it isn’t going to the easy.
Sure MSU beat the Hawkeyes earlier this year, but with the Big Ten’s hottest team in desperate need of one more win that would almost certainly guarantee them a big dance trip, they are desperate. Desperate teams can pull off amazing accomplishments in a tournament setting.
Iowa is a totally different team than the one that faced MSU earlier this year and Izzo is quick to explain why. “The Marble kid didn’t even play against us, then he went into a slump. And now he’s playing some of his best basketball, you know? Basabe was in a slump then and now he’s starting and playing a lot better. They’re a lot different team, same characters, lot different team.”
So are the Iowa players playing better, or have they changed their schemes? Izzo thinks both. “You know, I’m not sure. I’m not sure. They’re playing faster than they even were and they always play fast. I think they’re a little better defensively because Basabe gives them some shot blocking. And they’re a little bit better shot-blocking team, which means they’re a little bit better defensive team, guarding the rim than they were. I guess Gesell’s coming back from all I’ve heard. So now they’ve played four games without him and won some games. So I think it’s a better team, I definitely do. Some of the rookies have gotten older. Some of the guys in slumps have gotten out of slumps. I think it’s a better team.”
One area to watch tonight is the MSU rotation. Izzo is known for getting that set early in the season. It was late into this season that he had a general outline. Is he happy with it now? I have a better feel for my rotation but I don’t have it like I’ve always had it for a ten-year span where my assistants and I sit down before the game starts and kind of, you know, chalkboard the first half where we know at 16 minutes, this guy is going in or at 14, this guy and 13, this guy. We try to have some combinations in there and that’s the way we did it, kind of like an NBA style where a player knew both on the bench and the one out there knew what was happening.”
So has he reached that level yet? “We’re not gonna get to that this year because that takes time and everything, you know, and I don’t think we have the time to do that. It takes repetitions of doing it the same way and that’s what I mean but it hasn’t worked so bad this time. We’ve won a lot of games and we’ve beaten some pretty good people. A lot of games, it’s a completely different was that’s not as comfortable to me. I don’t think it’s as comfortable for the players because it’s nice to know when you’re sitting on the bench that four minutes in or five minutes in, you’re going in and I think you can mentally prepare yourself and physically prepare yourself. I think it’s nice to know when you’re out on the court, ‘OK, they’re going to sub me now so I don’t have to save myself.’ That’s the only disappointing part for me but maybe I’ll re-look at it because it hasn’t worked so bad and yet I think we can continuously tweak it a little bit.”
Why is it that it has taken so long? “I just don’t think there will be the comfort level of everybody knowing that because of the way it’s going. The other side of the coin is with TV now an even a bigger part, longer commercials, trying to make more money, all those things, fatigue a lot of times in these tournaments isn’t that big of a deal because of timeouts and the way they are although, sometimes, I guess more because of the nervousness and the importance of a one-and-done way so I guess I could go either way. But I’ve found during these timeouts, they’re always a little longer so subbing isn’t quite as critical.”
The Spartans should win tonight. Should and will are far different words. What we know is that sometime after 9 PM EST tonight the Spartans will face a desperate Iowa team. MSU is already in the dance and almost certainly has their first two rounds at the Palace. Can they rise above their comfort and knock Iowa out?
This team has lacked a knockout punch this year, so this will be a big test.
For the Hawkeyes the perspiration wasn’t even dried on their bodies and they were looking at MSU. With some around Hawkeye nation calling tonigh’t tilt the biggest game in recent memory for the resurging program. What are the players thinking?
Eric May said, “I’m glad people are getting excited about this. They should be. I think we’re giving them reason to be. It is a — every game this season has been a big game. Especially in the Big Ten. So for us to be in this position, it would really be– for people to be excited and just how much things have changed is really encouraging. It shows what we have been doing and the work we have been putting in and the results we’re getting from that work.”
His teammate Roy Devyn Marble elaborated, “I think it’s a big game just because it’s the next one. But I think, like Eric said, we have come out and had a pretty decent, good season. But giving people reason to be excited about forthcoming games, and all we have to do is go out there and not disappoint.”
Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery had a lot more to say after his teams win over Northwestern and it was about Michigan State. “We’ve got an unbelievable challenge tomorrow. Everybody knows that. And that is, in some respects, almost the gold standard for what teams want to become (MSU). Tom [Izzo] is one of the premier coaches in our game, without question. So we know what’s in front of us, but we welcome the opportunity.”
McCaffery went on address whether he thinks tonight’s game is a must win for the Hawkeyes to go dancing. “I think that’s important. I’m not foolish, I hear what everybody’s saying about that particular game. To me, I am very comfortable with where our resume is right now. I think we deserve to be in. But, there are so many factors and I respect whatever the committee decides. There are a lot of other really good teams. The only thing that we can control is how we play tomorrow. That’s how we’re going to approach it. It’s not something that we even talk about.”
I know this, I have no clue who wins, but MSU will get all they want from Iowa. Earlier this year Izzo bemoaned his team being fat and sassy. If that Spartan teams show up then MSU has no shot. Even with their best effort this game will be a battle.