Prior to last week, the only Big Ten arena I had been to — other than Breslin Center — was Crisler Arena.
Needless to say, Crisler is not an intimidating venue.
One week after visiting Wisconsin’s Kohl Center and Illinois’ Assembly Hall, I can say I was completely blown away by those two environments. They were electric and, in my mind, have put some pressure on Breslin Center.
Don’t get me wrong, when there’s a big game in East Lansing I would put Breslin Center up with any arena.
But the gap that Breslin Center had on the rest of the Big Ten is slimming, and something that hasn’t escaped men’s basketball head coach Tom Izzo.
“There is no question that Michigan State had the toughest place to play in for a lot of years,” Izzo said Monday. “There’s no question it’s not at that level right now. But our team hasn’t been at that level the last two games either, so I’ve got my own job to do. But I always urge and say that we don’t win games just because of our team.”
Something that Kohl Center and Assembly Hall have better than Breslin Center is the participation of nonstudents. Every play, it seemed the Kohl Center crowd would get to its feet and add to the noise of the Wisconsin students. At Illinois, members of the Orange Krush moved to different parts of the arena and urged the crowd to stand up and cheer — something to which the crowd didn’t object.
It has been hard for the Izzone to get the rest of the arena to cheer, but it’s something that needs to be done — especially tonight with No. 6 Purdue rolling into town with first place in the conference on the line.
“The truth of it is, my team has to play better, I have to coach better and maybe they have to cheer better,” Izzo said. “If the three of those happen, we have a team that can go a long way, we have a team that can win the Big Ten championship, we have a team that can be playing late in March, and if they don’t happen — all three of those — we have a good basketball team, but unfortunately those are a dime a dozen.”
Tonight has been declared a White Out. Make it happen. These special games don’t happen very often, so everyone going to the game needs to be encouraged to wear white.
And to the Izzone: You might be considered one of the nation’s best and most-storied student sections, but the effort really needs to be turned up. No more texting during the game (especially during play!) and every single one of you needs to be bouncing up and down and screaming your lungs out all game — especially the side that is seen on TV. It looks bad when the only visible part is just standing.
With a national TV audience, Breslin Center has the opportunity to reassert itself at the top of the nation’s toughest places to play — a place it deserves.
“I don’t care about the snow (tonight), our place has to be like these other two places we’ve played at,” Izzo said. “We played in front of two incredible crowds, so our place is going to have to jack their game up along with our team jacking our game up.”
Make it happen.
Chris Vannini is a State News men’s basketball reporter and former Izzone member. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.