Izzo aims for consistency as Spartans wrap up regular season on the road
MSU head coach Tom Izzo addressed the media on Monday for the first time since the team's 84-74 win over then-No. 16 Wisconsin Sunday and discussed the state of the team with the regular season concluding at the end of this week.
The win over Wisconsin puts the Spartans in a three-way tie for third in the conference, along with Minnesota and Maryland. Izzo said even with the slim chance of winning an outright regular season conference title, this team still has a lot to play for.
"As I have said to you a hundred times, not only here but around the Big Ten it sure has been a weird year," Izzo said. "We are in the final week and I always say that when you are in the final week or two you want to be playing for something. Not that I think we are playing for a Big Ten championship because I am not. Mathematically now there are still so many teams involved with the chance to win a Big Ten championship."
Despite the win over the Badgers, the Spartans will be on the road for the last two games of the season and will play the No. 9 team in the Big Ten, the University of Illinois Wednesday night.
Izzo said taking the win over Wisconsin and using it to build consistency will be an immense sign of progress for the Spartans.
"Today is going to have to be a big practice because I think right now everybody is probably acting like we’ve accomplished this, this and this," Izzo said. "We haven’t accomplished anything because it’s the way it is, but we did take a giant step yesterday and I think now you can be playing to get in the tournament.”
MSU is 4-9 in all games played away from the Breslin Center, leaving Izzo concerned in the last stretch of the season. With the Illini, Izzo said the freshmen will have to play better defense, especially when setting screens.
"We did get a better defensive performance out of a couple of guys," Izzo said of the win over Wisconsin. "Cassius (Winston) is getting a little better there and (Joshua) Langford is getting a little better and Nick (Ward) still has to get up on those things. That is what we are working on."
Should MSU finish the season outside the top four seeds in the Big Ten, it would be the first time since the Big Ten's 2014 expansion the Spartans would miss a double-bye to start the Big Ten Tournament.
"I haven’t been in that situation very much where I was fighting to get in," Izzo said. "Usually, we were one of the top four teams. Only once or twice that we’ve been playing to get into that upper four. So another new territory for me and them, but I don’t look at it as life and death, especially when we could play good and lose two games, we could play good and lose a game."