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Izzo looks ahead to Big Ten Tournament, believes the team can make a run

March 6, 2023
MSU guard Jaden Akins (left) carries the ball up to OSU guard Isaac Likekele at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus, Ohio on Sunday, Feb. 12, 2023. Michigan State scored 46 percent of their field goal attempts to Ohio's 28 percent.
MSU guard Jaden Akins (left) carries the ball up to OSU guard Isaac Likekele at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus, Ohio on Sunday, Feb. 12, 2023. Michigan State scored 46 percent of their field goal attempts to Ohio's 28 percent. —
Photo by Jack Armstrong | The State News

MSU men's basketball head coach Tom Izzo met with the media ahead of the tournament quarterfinals on Friday afternoon to discuss the latest matchups and what’s to come.

The veteran coach discussed the results of Sunday’s six Big Ten contests, saying he’s never seen anything quite like the current conference standings

“It’s been consistently insane,” Izzo said.

Dependent on the results of Sunday’s games, Michigan State could have learned as high as a three seed or been pushed back down to a seven seed

After Nebraska knocked off Iowa on Sunday afternoon, MSU secured its double-bye and earned the four seed when Northwestern took down Rutgers on the road

“I feel very comfortable with where we are and feel deserving of it … ,” Izzo said. “We do get a couple of days now to prep. The ironic part is we just played Iowa and Ohio State and could play anyone of them, the scary one is we haven’t played Wisconsin since the beginning of the year so it will be a completely new prep.”

In the final few matchups of its regular season, MSU’s offensive efforts have ignited success on that end of the floor

Offensive team leaders senior guard Tyson Walker, junior guard A.J. Hoggard sophomore guard Jaden Akins, senior forward Malik Hall and graduate student forward Joey Hauser have propelled the Spartans, contributing in their latest contests to earn the four seed spot and double-bye in the tournament

However, the Spartans' defense doesn’t match their proficiency on the offense end, especially on the boards. In Saturday's senior day showdown, MSU allowed the Buckeyes seven offensive rebounds.

“The problem is our defensive stats have gone down,” Izzo said. “We’re giving up in the high forties and giving up in the high thirties and that’s been disappointing.”

The Spartans have managed to reduce the number of turnovers per game, something that hindered their performance earlier in the season

Against the Buckeyes, MSU had eight turnovers, compared to earlier in the season when the Spartans were picking up over 10 turnovers per game

Although the lineup is set in the post season with starting players receiving key minutes, Izzo is confident that Hall will remain a key contributor as well as potentially freshman center Carson Cooper. The veteran coach remains confident in sophomore guard Pierre Brooks, but acknowledges that the rotation is pretty much locked in.

The four seed Spartan team will face the winner of the Ohio State/ Wisconsin versus Iowa contest in the tournament quarterfinals on Friday afternoon

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Big Ten tournament, one that’s evolved over the years as the conference has grown

The last time MSU competed in the tournament at the United Center, they came back to overcome Michigan, 65-60.

Izzo reflects fondly on his experience with the tournament over the course of his career and looks forward to attending in the coming years once he's no longer in the head coach position

“I think that’s the beauty of the tournament,” Izzo said. “Does it make a lot of money yeah it probably does. Is it exciting? For the fans it is, for the coaches it’s nerve wracking but is it something for our alums to really wrap and embrace their arms around? 100%.”

MSU is slated to play on Friday at approximately 2:30 p.m. EST, 25 minutes after the end of game No. 1 of the quarterfinals, beginning at 11 a.m. EST.

All tournament games will be held at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois beginning Wednesday evening.

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