Breslin Center

East Lansing, MI

With the #2 Spartans heading into tournament time with a 26-5 record and looking for another #1 seed, MSU head coach Tom Izzo has a lot on his mind. While most fans would look at a winning streak that has given them 10 of the last 11 games, a 26-5 record or a national ranking of number two and think one of those had to be the reason of joy, they don’t know Izzo.

Those things are all special, but Izzo loves defense and he loves communication. Something he is getting as his Spartans are galvanizing into a top tier team.

“Well that’s one thing my assistants harp on, I mean we harp on that every day. In fact, I’ve got a lot of analysts that come to day of the game practice and NBA scouts that come in and they kind of say that’s one of the things, that’s probably a secret. It’s not secret, but it’s probably something that a lot of people wouldn’t pick up on and we’re getting better at it. Now we still, that’s where DD (Deyonta Davis) struggles, Eron (Harris) struggles a little bit because he hasn’t done it all his life. And we need people, whenever you see this (makes talking gesture with his hands) it’s not a play, it’s talk, you know, you got to talk more. I always, I use the example with players, ‘If you’re in a dark room you want to hear voices.’ You know, sometimes you’re out there guarding a player and you got him one-on-one and you hear someone from the right say ‘you go help’ and someone from the left, there’s a comfort level there – you just feel better. It seems so easy to do, but there are a lot of people in the world that can’t stand to hear their own voice or don’t like to hear their own voice – I am not one of them! But when it comes to them, most of them are, so consequently maybe this is an area that a shorter guy can help a group that’s usually a lot taller. And so maybe this is one area that I can finally get most of my guys on, but it does help.”

So why does Izzo put so much emphasis on communication and defense and how do you quantify that? Simple.

“It’s the defensive way of, if I had to chart it, it’s the defensive way that assists are to the offense. It means you’re sharing, you care about your teammate, you’re helping each other. Communicating on defense mean you’re sharing information, you’re talking to your teammates, you’re helping each other. So the offensive way is assists, the defensive way is communication to me – and I think every coach would die to have a team that communicates well. You don’t get to see it as much in football –  I remember our D-backs a year ago when they were so good, all four of them kind of worked together. You listen to them, you watch them, they’re pointing – you watch a good linebacker, he’s pointing and talking. Ray Lewis never kept his mouth shut, you know. It’s the same principle you think in basketball just because you’re 6’10 you shouldn’t have to talk and I’m not that way.”

The Spartans head into action tomorrow night at 6:30 PM against Ohio State or Penn State. You can see that game on BTN.