After attaining that coveted national championship, Tom Izzo said he and MSU basketball are headed for uncharted waters.
In dealing with winning a national championship, I havent been there, havent done that, he said. I really dont know what to expect, except what Ive been told and thats, Hang on to your hats.
Indeed, MSU will be marked as one of the teams to beat in the nation. However, Izzo said he doesnt like to think of the team as defending national champs.
Im looking at this as were not defending or holding an NCAA championship in any way shape or form, he said. So guess what, were back hunting, hunting for another and were not thinking about defending anything.
Izzo said the next step for MSU is to make the program a nationally recognized one that lasts.
The next five years, where we take this program and what we do from here will really determine where were at, he said.
For the 2000-2001 season, Izzo has set forth three objectives for the team to accomplish, the first being the need for a new team identity.
We cant be talking about what we did last year, what we had last year, and what we dont have, he said.
Izzos second goal is to find new leadership, something former All-America guard Mateen Cleaves provided plenty of.
Building new leaders is probably going to be one of the most critical areas we have to cover, he said.
Izzo said hes looking for seniors Charlie Bell and Andre Hutson to step up in that area.
The third objective Izzo mentioned is the need to develop chemistry now that Cleaves, Morris Peterson and A.J. Granger are gone.
Every year when you lose a guy, sometimes one player, sometimes a bunch, it really changes the whole chemistry of your team, he said.
However, Izzo said a big advantage for the squad is that the players know how to win.
Until you win championships, you can talk about it, you can think about it, he said. At least now, we have a barometer and a gauge to say we know what it takes and how much work it takes to win championships. Duplicating that will be our goal.
The Spartans return five seniors - guards Bell and Brandon Smith and forwards Hutson, Mike Chappell and David Thomas. The returning letterwinners are sophomore forwards Aloysius Anagonye, Jason Richardson and Adam Ballinger. Izzo mentioned that the freshman class, guard Marcus Taylor and center Zach Randolph, are expected to make significant contributions.
Hutson said the players are working on making MSU an elite team.
(Izzo) wants to build a dynasty here at Michigan State, he said. He wants it to be one of those programs where it gets the recognition of the Dukes and the Kentuckys (and) teams like that. Hes working hard towards that goal.
Bell said the team expects its opponents to come out playing their best.
I think every team that we play against has our game circled on the schedule, he said. Thats one thing that weve worked this program up to, a program to where were one of the bigger teams in the country. Its a big win for any team that beats us.
Highlighting the 2000-2001 home schedule are visits by Kentucky and 2000 Final Four participants North Carolina and Florida.
Izzo said the Spartans will be going for their fourth-straight Big Ten championship and a third-straight 30-win season. MSU is the only school in the nation to record 30 or more victories in each of the past two seasons, going 33-5 in the 1998-1999 season and 32-7 in 1999-2000.
We have a chance to do some things that not many Big Ten teams have done, (and) not many teams in the nation have done, Izzo said.