Could a Busy Schedule Equal a Sharpened Focus?
A quick glance at the Spartansâ€™ February schedule reveals a very busy month.Â Two separate 3-game weeks, three big road dates, and the Spartansâ€™ top Basketball rival coming to Breslin Center next Thursday night make for a very hectic pace.Â With all that jammed into the yearâ€™s shortest month, one might assume it could make it easier for a team to follow the old adage of taking it â€œone game at a time.â€Â Tom Izzo is not so sure.
â€œItâ€™s just like always, if you have a week off and you win the next game, you say it was good for you,â€ he explained.Â Yet, while Izzo wasnâ€™t sure his packed in calendar would help his teamâ€™s game-to-game focus, he sees other benefits to a steadier slate of games.
â€œI kinda like now getting on trackâ€¦where youâ€™ve got a little bit of consistency (with the number of dates between games).Â I think thatâ€™s better for the players.â€Â He also explained that Coaches tend to adjust to scheduling inconsistencies better than players can.Â
Given the tight Big Ten race and MSUâ€™s opponents over the rest of the month, anything but a â€œone game at a timeâ€ approach should leave the Spartans out of league contention come the dawn of â€œMarch Madness.â€Â It will be interesting to see if the busy schedule leads to a better â€œone game focus,â€ or ends up wearing the Spartans thin in this make or break Big Ten month.
The Goal of Going Out on Top
A year ago today, no one around the Big Ten foresaw the shameful crumbling of two Coaching icons.Â With Joe Paterno clearly the at the top of the Coaching Icon list at that time, you couldâ€™ve had an interesting debate to name the Coaching Icon in line.Â And while you quickly wouldâ€™ve compared the incredible successes of Jim Tressel and Tom Izzo, thereâ€™s now no argument to be made.Â Izzo is now the Big Tenâ€™s top Coaching Icon, which is a reality he cannot ignore.Â
â€œIâ€™ve seen some sad things happen, and nobody wants that to happenâ€¦to anybody,â€ he explained.Â Izzo has been around long enough to see cheerful exits, like his predecessor Jud Heathcoteâ€™s final Big Ten tour.Â Heâ€™s seen a few questionable ones, like the last years at Purdue for Gene Keady.Â And heâ€™s been up close to a few shocking and disturbing dismissals, as seen recently at Indiana with Bobby Knight, and the ongoing disaster in Happy Valley.
â€œItâ€™s a dream of every Coach (to leave on a good note), even though it very seldom happens,â€ he admitted to Spartan Nation.Â Â â€œI think every Coach hopes to do two things: they hope to get out on their own whenever they want to get out, and they hope they leave the program in better shape than they got it in.â€Â Â Â
While Izzo appears far from done at MSU, heâ€™s always had that kind of mindset and has always kept track of the enormous challenge of building a program to last.Â â€œI feel better about that than I did two years ago,â€ he quipped.Â But he also accepts that itâ€™s awful hard to bring those â€œexit goalsâ€ together at once.Â â€œSometimes those two have to meet part way.â€Â
Izzo contends that big time College Coaches are now â€œhired to be firedâ€ in a â€œtrickle down effect from pro football, or pro basketball, or any of the other sports.â€Â But unlike those professional teams, the legacy and footprint of an iconic College Coach lives on far past their exit.Â You can still see Gene Keady in the effort of the Purdue Boilermakers.Â You can still feel Bob Knight in the rafters of Assembly Hall.Â And you canâ€™t watch Spartan Basketball without the feel and ambiance of a lasting â€œJud Thud.â€Â Nor can you avoid the stain left behind from a Lane Kiffin, Butch Davis, or John Calipari on the other side of that equation.Â Â Â
While going out on top is a Coachâ€™s dream, we far more often seen a nightmare ending in College Sports.Â So rare is the perfectly executed â€œwalk off shotâ€ like Scotty Bowman of the Detroit Red Wings (the best Coach in the history of Professional Sports) once pulled off.Â Given the incredible and ugly exits in the Big Ten over the last 12 months, fans these days are probably content to give up on those Coachâ€™s dreams to insure theyâ€™ll avoid a long lasting nightmare.
The Spot up 3:Â Three Quick College Basketball Points to Dribble Around
1.Â Â Â Â Â The chatter around College Basketball of maybe moving â€œMarch Madnessâ€ to a May finale has to be intriguing.Â If they can transform CBB into a one-semester sport, itâ€™s hard to argue that would be worse for the so called Student-Athlete.Â Â Â
2.Â Â Â Â Â Can the NCAA get the Menâ€™s 3-point line moved back to an International distance, and also take the Womenâ€™s line off the court for the playing of a Menâ€™s game already.Â One move is needed to further the overall development of a slipping College Menâ€™s game, and the other to avoid sending any more of us to the Ophthalmologist for assistance?Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
3.Â Â Â Â Â The Spartan Big Men have gotten stronger with the ball than they were in the seasonâ€™s first two showcase contests, but they havenâ€™t been tested since like they will against Ohio St. this Saturday, and again three weeks later.Â Now is the time they must squeeze and finish around the rim.
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