Izzo takes a nostalgic glance back before entering the madness
A hall of fame coach with a wall full of accolades, MSU men’s basketball head coach Tom Izzo is still gaining new experiences.
Izzo has had to deal with multiple injuries this season, youth and a tough travel schedule. Forwards Gavin Schilling and Ben Carter went down in the preseason, freshman forward Miles Bridges missed seven games with a foot injury and both sophomore guard Matt McQuaid and redshirt-sophomore forward Kenny Goins missed a summer's worth of workouts with their separate injuries. Freshman guard Joshua Langford had a delayed start to the season as well.
The team's four freshmen: Bridges, Langford, guard Cassius Winston and forward Nick Ward, have had to deal with the workload majority throughout the season, arguably without much guidance from the upperclassmen.
Despite the adversity MSU faced as a team, Izzo and the Spartans are the No. 9 seed in the Midwest. They will face Miami (Fla.) in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Izzo was able to nostalgically look back at this season during his weekly press conference during a week dedicated to film sessions and preparation for the tournament.
“I mean this when I say it, it's been enjoyable, for as painful as some of it's been, to work with incredible guys,” Izzo said. “To work with a player like Miles (Bridges) to say the least, one of the better players I've had that can take coaching, that wants to get better, wants to work on his game, wants to be a blue collar guy, wants to be a great teammate. Those things are a joy and a treat so I'm going to embrace those parts of it.”
The month of March has been kind to Izzo. For his career, Izzo is 101-46 in March. His success in the NCAA Tournament ranks fifth among active coaches for best winning percentage in the tournament.
When an Izzo-led team is the higher seed, the Spartans are 13-10, which is the most all-time in NCAA Tournament history.
“It's just been different than any year I ever dreamed about here,” Izzo said. “The two other years when we were on bubbles were for different reasons than this year. This year it's been an enjoyable bubble if there is any such thing, an enjoyable bubble. I've kind of had a very good appreciation for it and now I'm hoping that we can take it and go somewhere.”
Though this team is considered a slight underdog against Miami, a win would set them up with a potential matchup against No. 1 Kansas. Against the top-seeded Jayhawks, Izzo’s Spartans would have a large gap to bridge the public’s opinion.
“I do think and I don't want to convince you and I don't have to convince me, we are good enough to lose any game we play right now, but we are good enough to win them and we are just going to have to play at that level,” he said.
But before Izzo takes off to Tulsa, Okla., a place he once worked for seven weeks, he was able to gaze back at this season. He said this year has helped give him an understanding for his career at MSU. And given the circumstances of this year’s season, he might not want a second go with a similar team.
“I've really enjoyed the chance to appreciate what we've had here because I don't take the time to appreciate it,” Izzo said. “Do I like it? Nope, but I want to go through it. Hopefully I'm done in my career going through it. Once every seven, eight, 10 years would be fine but don't want this to be a regular stop, but I have appreciated the players, how they've hung in there. I've appreciated what they've done.”