Another Izzo team has Final Four potential
by Nicole Auerbach, USA TODAY Sports
EAST LANSING, Mich. — Tom Izzo sat in his office late, a few days removed from what he called his program’s win in three years. He was in a good mood, as one might expect from a coach after thoroughly beating his in-state rival, and he was feeling chatty.
The subject turned to Izzo himself and how his teams are so good — and so tough to beat — come February. How his teams nearly always compete for Big Ten championships even, in a season such as this one, where they are initially expected to take a back seat to Indiana and Michigan. The Spartans are 22-4 (11-2 Big Ten), tied with the team they’ll face Tuesday night — the Hoosiers — atop the Big Ten standings.
Opposing coaches aren’t surprised that Izzo-coached teams find late-season success; they’ve see it happen for years. They credit the coaching, the talent and the consistency within the program. Former players think the system is simply built for Big Ten success.
“One of the reasons people say we get better is because every Final Four we’ve been in, except one, I think we had the most losses (of Final Four teams),” Izzo said. “It’s because of the scheduling. We build up the scheduling. Some years, it’s been so brutal, it’s scary. I’ve looked at the schedule when I do it, and I go, ‘Oh, that sucks.’ Then I look at it when it comes, and I’m like, ‘What am I thinking?’ Last year, we opened up with Duke and Carolina (which were both losses). I think that always puts you down a little bit off the bat.
“If we had played Northern Michigan and Eastern Michigan, we would have been ranked fifth, sixth, the whole time — like Michigan has, they’ve been a top five, seven team. Indiana has been that. You almost act like they aren’t getting better. Maybe they are getting better, but you don’t see it as easy as ours.”
So, early-season losses are the key to late-season success?
“Our schedule, I don’t think every year, but over time, it’s been as good as anybody’s in the … [For more on Another Izzo-coached Michigan State team has Final Four potential, click here.]