Michigan State Spartans Stand 20 Days from their THIRD National Title and Tom Izzo Can Feel It!
East Lansing, MI
Tom Izzo declared on Monday that, “We hit a home run,” when assessing his team’s weekend performance at the Big Ten Tournament and who could argue with him. Now with a #4 seed in the East in his pocket for the NCAA Big Dance he and his Spartans are heading off to Spokane, Washington as the darlings of the media world. They are in hot pursuit of Izzo’s second and Michigan State’s third national title.
Izzo understands that while nationally he and his Spartans are seen as the favorite, there are a lot more obstacles standing in the way of whoever wins that in previous years. With the NCAA’s new rules and interpretations not only can games change depending on the officials, but from half to half.
Izzo thinks his team needs to worry more about other issues than feeling the love.
“It’s probably the fouls and the free throw shooting of this team, the fact that they can score, then dealing with the rollercoaster of not you guys, but there are people around here that pronounced us dead a week ago. All of a sudden we went from the ugly duckling to the prom queen.”
Written off as dead by many Izzo thinks had a psychological impact on his team. “That is hard. It’s hard for an 18 , 19 , 20 year old to handle. I look at what an Appling has gone through in the last two weeks. It’s the nature of the beast, what profession they chose. You still have to remember who they are.”
His Spartans left last night and Izzo talked about why they were leaving early. Here is a hint. The last time he played in Spokane his team had too many distractions in East Lansing. That isn’t why now.
“Getting out of here really was more because of the plane because we would miss school if we left. We did it a couple years ago this way. And we’ve come off a tough weekend, now bounce right back into a Thursday afternoon game. I have some concerns about that, as you always do about things.”
He continued, “But I am concerned. I told them, you know, if it was me, I’d be checking that phone in at the local bank and put it back somewhere where it’s locked up because I think we are going to have to deal with those things.”
But for the pride of the U.P. who has always fought for respect, Izzo does appreciate that his team is being lauded. He revels in it.
“I’m ecstatic that people think we’re going to be good. But they thought that at the beginning of the year. If you look at some of the things in the Big Ten, some of the teams that were picked early, everybody went through their rollercoasters. Wisconsin did especially with that five out of six game losing streak. They’re sitting there answering the bell at the end.”
Izzo says the love is appreciated, but he doesn’t see his team as a finished product. “I would say this. I mean, we’re not back yet. We just made some giant steps. There’s still so many inconsistencies when you look at the film, why are we doing this. Our substitution pattern has to get better. We have to get more out of our bigs. To be a championship level team, we still have a lot of work to do.”
That work is what drives the never satisfied Izzo. He has been here and done that. Something NO ONE who will put the uniform on Thursday at 4:40 PM EST has done in a Final Four game. He wants the team with the talent to listen and follow.
He said, “I’m not going to beg them to; I’m going to demand that they do. One thing that I know that they don’t, I’ve been there, I’ve been around that Final Four type place. The bad moments in a game, the dumb fouls, those things, in one and done time, that can take you right out of everything. We have so much growth yet and we got to do it in a quick period of time.”
Izzo has every tool he needs to win. Travis Trice told me before the season this team had it all if they could focus for just a “few” months.
Now Izzo needs three weekends. Three. If his Spartans can do that, they should be cutting down the nets in Dallas. Three weekends. Twenty days from today someone will be crowned champion. It can be the Spartans. It should be the Spartans and I believe, it WILL be the Spartans.