East Lansing, MI
Tom Izzo understands tournament time. While leading MSU to his 19th straight big dance, that doesn’t mean his is without consternation.
“My big worry now is to try to win the weekend, and it starts with Middle Tennessee. They are very well-coached. Kermit Davis has been in it for a long time. They're a team that's gone to the NCAA Tournament before, a program that's gone there five out of the last seven seasons. They shoot the ball a little bit like us as far as the number of threes, but they have five guys that are shooting them. In other words, their center is a three-point shooter, and so it will be a little different cover.” They may be a #15 seed and far from the power five conferences, but the Blue Raiders have some real talent. “The Giddy Potts (6’2” 220# Guard) kid is leading the nation in three-point field goal percentage shooting at over 50 percent, so we'll have our hands full with that. And then they played a lot of guys, just like us. I think they've got 10 guys almost averaging in double figures.”
So how will Izzo handle the off days this week? “Today (Monday) and tomorrow we'll prepare for the whole weekend, and just kind of hone in on the task at hand first, which is Middle Tennessee on Wednesday and Thursday, and hopefully play Friday.”
So as he prepares for the start of the dance in practice this week, perhaps the best practice was last week in Indianapolis. Izzo admitted that tight games in the conference tournament helped his Spartans prepare for what they hope is a six game run in the NCAA Tournament.
“I don't know if I saw what I wanted to see, but what I saw was that we found a way to win. And that over anything else is the most important; do you find a way to win. I think what else I found out is we're still a little bit -- we're not where we need to be in those last 10 minutes of games yet. We've got to tighten things up. That's the best word I can use. We've just got to tighten things up a little bit as far as when we're taking a chance on a play, when we're throwing it up, you know, what chances we're taking on defense, and what we want to run. That is maybe the hardest. Where do you want to go with different lineups and different teams and different teams you're playing.” They learned some things this weekend that were exposed, and for that Izzo is glad he has some practice time this week. “It's going to give us a couple days here to work on us, and that's going to be a good thing. But probably the biggest thing I learned is the most important, and that's can you find a way to win. Sometimes no matter how you do it or how lucky you are or unlucky you are, if you can find a way to win, you grow into that, too, and with a guy like Denzel, he might make a mistake here and there, but he does an incredible job of finding a way to win.”
At 29-5 Michigan State will be tipping off against #15 seed Middle Tennessee (24-9) on Friday in St. Louis, Missouri at 2:45. You can see that game on CBS.