Spartans Enjoy Pros and Cons of Being Close to Home to Play Valparaiso!
Tom Izzo has been to enough Final Fours to make only but a select few college coaches not salivate at his success. He has his system down and knows how to roll in the tournament. He has done it from boarder to boarder and coast to coast.
So when it was announced that his Spartans were a #3 seed playing in the Midwest, with that came a chance to play at the Palace of Auburn Hills. So does being there seem comfortable to the future Hall of Fame coach? “The Palace has been good to us. Not that it matters, but I think there’s a comforting thought that at least we’ve won our share of games at the Palace over the years. I think that’s going to be very important. I think the most important thing is Valpo is a very, very good team. They got a great shooter in Broekhoff. He is a big time player. He’s one of the leaders in three point shooting in the country, one of the leading free throw shooters in the country.”
Izzo has learned it isn’t where you play but who you play. He went on to talk about Valpo and what worries him. “I think of all the things that concern me about them, they’re well coached, a legacy with his dad. They’ve won a lot of games, especially 16 of their last 18. When you look at that, that’s scary.”
So what is Valpo’s biggest strength? “I think the number one issue we have with that this is a complete senior ladened team with five starters, as I said last night, all seniors, two of them fifth year seniors. Experience at the end of the line I think helps you play at a different level. So that’s the bad news for us.”
Is there good news Tom? “The good news for us is I think our guys are excited to play. We had a little meeting last night, looked at a little film with them. I think they’re going to be ready to play. We think we have to really stop their offense. They shoot 50 from the field, 40 from the three, 74 from the line. Efficient team, efficient offense. Trying to get a gauge on some teams they’ve played is a little harder, but at the same time they played some quality people on the road and lost a few of those games, but showed up, showed up big time.”
The Spartans are big and physical and built for Big Ten play. So how will they handle the smaller, faster and at times more athletic Valpo senior laden attack? “Take advantage of what they give us, try to push on them what we want to get to. There’s a little bit of both in there.”
He added, “It is a different team because they have a 4 man that at first I thought was like Thomas from Ohio State. But he puts it on the floor and moves a lot differently. Thomas doesn’t do those things. This kid is actually more effective in that way, yet he scores and shoots it at a very high level.”
Izzo talked about the scheme when defending. “We’re going to have to do some things defensively a little differently. And offensively, that’s the part we’re still looking at right now. How much they zone, how much they really trap. They do some definite trapping on the post. I’m sure they’ll trap us. It’s a pretty aggressive trap. Yet we played some teams that have done that, go back to a Boise. At least been there, done that before. We’ll look and see how we did it.”
The Spartans aren’t small like Valpo and Izzo concedes that he has to make them pay for it. “We’re definitely going to have to play inside out. We’re a better shooting team when we do, get to the free throw line when we do.”
Although not a true zone team, against a bigger MSU squad you do expect some matchup zone from Valpo. Izzo thinks one player has to face it and face it at a high level. “Those are things that Adreian is going to have to do more in practice. What impressed me in the last game against Ohio State, they did bring Thomas off some doubles, and he actually did a great job. But it is harder, getting over ball screens, although they don’t use Broekhoff as much, they bring him off of stagger screens and single screens, try to put him in different spots. They move him all over. That’s going to be harder for him. But we also have Branden that can play 3 and 4. Might see some of that, too. He’s not a guy that posts you up as much as he is moving around. So it’s going to be a tougher matchup for AP but one AP can handle.”
Izzo would welcome Valpo to zone his Spartans. Others have tried with very little success. “It’s funny, I think every year everybody is going to zone us. Every time someone zones us, we’ve picked it apart. We’ve had very little problem against zones, sometimes with not as good a shooting team. We haven’t been zoned that much. I would expect we would some.”
Here it is Tuesday and Izzo has already missed way too much sleep for most human beings, but he still wants to see more tape. “I’m going to have to watch more film, meaning more numbers of games to see who they did it against, who they didn’t do it against. I don’t think when you’re them you’re going to change up either. They just won 16 out of 18 games. It’s not like they don’t know how to play. Their system has worked pretty good for them.”
The Valpo style is unique, but that doesn’t mean the Spartans haven’t seen it. That is why Izzo schedules the way he does. Have his guys got a look at their style this year yet? “There’s a potential for that. Yesterday, I don’t know if any of you watched the Ohio State game, but they played Thomas at center a lot of the time in the last 10 minutes of that game. You got to do what you got to do, whatever works. As many problems we have on one side, they’re going to have problems on the other side. I said a Boise team, very well coached, a team that can shoot the ball. This one is a little different, that they probably have a point guard, and their point guard was good, but this one is more of penetrating point guard, that was more of a scoring point guard. “
He went on to add that, “So I’m sure there’s other teams as I go through it. But as far as individual players, this creates the same issues as a Michigan would or an Indiana would with a guy at the 4 that can score, that can shoot it, that can go a little bit inside, outside. We’ve played when White plays at the 4 for Iowa. We’ve done that. I don’t know if it’s that much different. I just think they have experience. Boy, we’ve not played against anybody that’s started five seniors ever that I can remember. This is unique.”
This time of year the real trouble is NOT for the Spartans. Izzo has a system in place that addresses that. It is for the other teams. Valpo is a good team with a rich legacy. They are 26-7 and well coached, but they are still David and MSU is still Goliath. Izzo can fret and fear and kill himself with no sleep, but at the end of the day it is his dedication that will have the Spartans ready.