East Lansing, MI
When Tom Izzo said on Sunday after destroying Penn State, “Let’s go make a (Tournament) run,” my proverbial antenna instantly went way up. I have covered the Spartans head man for many years and that is not in his nature.
So today he talked about several reasons that have him so excited about his newly minted #2 ranked Spartans who are sporting a 24-5 (11-5) record. “The thing that is impressive to me is that we are now ranked in about four or five categories in the nation. When you’ve got field goal shooting defense and three point shooting offense as one of them that is pretty good balance. Rebounding is also one of them so now you are taking care of defense, offense and rebounding which I think is a big plus.”
So I had to ask Izzo a simple question. Based on his comments both Sunday and today, is this the best he has felt heading into tournament time since Mateen was his floor general? His answer may surprise you.
“It is and it isn’t. I mean I look at some of these stats. I am not an analytics guy as I have said a million times. When I look at them I keep saying how? It just doesn’t seem that way to me. I have told you that I am very confused by the schedule, which I am. I try to analyze it, but then I am probably over analyzing it. I think we are good. Sometimes we are up 20 and I say how? I think we have a very solid team. I guess in the back of my mind is the struggle to beat Maryland or those butt kicking Iowa games. We’ve had a couple of mental let downs, coach included at the end of a couple of games. So that is driving me to say that I am not that comfortable. What I do feel comfortable about is that I have a bunch of guys that have a common goal and will do anything to achieve that. The other stat that we are leading in is assists. How do you beat that? You have a star player that is playing for a lot personally and team wise, and yet we are shooting the ball like we are. In that respect I am feeling good about where we are at the present point. Now we will see how we handle some success. Can we get up for games that some people would question? You know, we just got to learn more about our team. Then you got the end of the week you gotta play another team that you just beat and is playing better, was playing better when you beat em and is playing even better now beating Iowa. And you got three games in six days, so all those things are gonna be interesting to see. But do I feel good about this team? I feel good about where we are right now. I feel good about how we practiced last week. I feel good about the focus I’m starting to see. And I feel really good about players taking criticism, taking coaching, whatever you want to call it and kind of learning and growing from it. And those two big guys, I mean, I think it was three good halves after what I consider a poor half and that speaks volumes. So yeah, I feel good about where we are, I just know we got a long way to go if we accomplish what we want to accomplish.”
So while the Spartans continue their upward ascent on the national rankings they have big goals ahead. The next step on that journey comes Wednesday at Rutgers. The Spartans will be taking on the Scarlett Knights and the game will tip off at 7PM and you can see it on BTN