Tom Izzo Admits to “Never” Being Content with His Team in March

Tom Izzo & Denzel Valentine arm in arm 2016.  Photo courtesy of Starr Portice.
Tom Izzo & Denzel Valentine arm in arm 2016. Photo courtesy of Starr Portice.

Breslin Center

East Lansing, MI

When the #2 Michigan State Spartans return to action on Friday night they will be led into the contest versus Ohio State or Penn State with Tom Izzo leading them. Sure to be named a Hall of Famer later this year, the Spartans general is a driving force trying to get his second national title and the third for Michigan State.

So with having already admitted to this being one of his top teams, is Izzo willing to admit that he is content with his team? Yeah right.

"Never. Right after watching the film today. I'm not even approaching content and I say that because there were a lot of little things that we didn't do. And almost to the point that ... yesterday we had a day off and to me it was the first one since December in my mind. Didn't watch film, didn't do this didn't do that and so about 10 o'clock last night, my family went to bed, so I went in my office to watch the film and that was a stupid thing to do because then I just ticked off all night. You know, I didn't think we did a good job. And you know, I went over with the team today, they agreed. They agreed. We just made some mistakes that we can't make if we're going forward. Now that doesn't mean you're ever going to get to perfection but we're a long way from that. As far as preparing for games, the hard part about the Big Ten tournament that I said is if you play that Sunday, if you get lucky enough to play that Sunday and then you are out West on Thursday, that's difficult. Other than that, two or three days to prepare for a team even at this point in time, that's fine. That's fine. I mean. And it's the same for everybody. So unless a team gets knocked out real early but they're not going to know until Sunday night who they're playing anyway. I think that's fine. I think the only thing that's hard sometimes about the Sunday Big Ten compared to the Big East or the ACC, I don't know how many are Saturday now. You just get that data to maybe work on yourself again, maybe look at your own film. You don't get that as much Sunday but it's not a big deal. It really isn't as long as playing Thursday and traveling makes it a little more difficult."

While the natural goal this weekend is to win the Big Ten Tournament crown, does Izzo think parlaying it into a #1 seed for the NCAA dance is crucial? His answer may shock you.

"You know I say this and you can believe me, maybe not. Being a No. 1 or 2 or 3 seed is not as important to me as it used to be. Is it a status for the program? Maybe a little bit. I don't even know if I look at it like that anymore. I want to see us getting better at these little things. I want to see the cutouts getting better, the 'Where are you supposed to be on a ball screen?' You know, why are we step behind? One step makes such a difference. I want to see if we can take three days of practice here and if we can prepare for a team and execute it. And as I told my players, the reason this program has had success in the tournament is we've been great at one day preparation. For one day preparation, there has to be an incredible trust between player and coach and coach has to do his job and players have to carry it out because there's not a lot of room for arguing or debate at that time when you've got one day. It's not like, 'Well let's see on Tuesday I'm going to play these ball screens,' and then the player, well what do you think and then Wednesday we change it up. I mean, we do that often during the year. I do respect my players. I think they're the ones that've got to guard it. But when it comes to the tournament, there's just no time to do that. So there's got to be a great focus on our part and a great trust on their part. The bottom line is the have to carry it out but when it comes to the tournament, there’s just no time to do that. So there’s gotta be a great focus on our part and great trust on their part and then the bottom line is they have to carry it out. I wanna see if we can carry some things out. I hope we get past the first game. Listen, we’ve gone to the Final Four and lost in the opening game, too. I take nothing for granted right now. But I wanna see if we can get past the first game. If we can focus in on that and do the job on one-day prep – not even a one-day prep in the Big Ten Tournament. I think that would help us for the NCAA Tournament and see how we handle things. We’ve got some people that we might play that we’ve beaten and we could end up playing some people that beat the daylights out of us. That’s what I’m looking forward to. Are we getting a little better? Are we getting our defense back to where it belongs? That’s probably really what I’m looking forward to.”

As long as the Spartans get to Sunday while in Indianapolis for the conference tournament, a #1 seed is almost a certainty. Winning it could get them to the first or second overall #1 seed.

The #2 Spartans enter the Big Ten Tournament with a 26-5 (13-5) record. The Spartans even picked up two first place votes this week as the top team in the land. The Spartans will tip off Friday from Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis at 6:30 PM. That game can be seen on BTN.