Izzo Fo Shizzo: Spartans are Unsung Heroes of March Madness

Photo taken by Seth Wenig

Photo taken by Seth Wenig

It may be his greatest coaching job ever, and that is really saying something. When you look at what Tom Izzo has done over the course of his time at Michigan State, you see a Hall of Fame type career, with now seven final four appearances and a national title back in 2000. However, I think that it is safe to say that even Tom Izzo did not even expect a run like this.

Izzo’s bunch were rather disoriented for most of the season. I mean for Pete’s sake, they lost to Texas Southern at home in December. This was a bubble team at best, and I think that many fans were just hoping that Izzo could continue his streak of getting back into the tournament and call it a decent year.

The best thing to remember about this 2015 Michigan State team, is that you can never underestimate the heart of a champion, and when things fall apart, you can always continue on to your goal if you truly believe. The Spartans were still an average team  heading into the Big Ten tournament in Chicago, but something incredible happened. Yes, there were still the turnovers and sloppy play on offense at times, but the Spartans truly looked like a much different team. They came right out of the gate and stomped on Ohio State in the B1G quarterfinals, then rallied from a 23-7 deficit to defeat the Maryland Terrapins in the semifinals. The momentum carried into the championship game, where MSU had Wisconsin on their heels all game, but the Spartans lost a tough fought game in overtime. A game that they should have won in regulation.

Despite having success in the conference tournament, people were still doubting the Spartans. The NCAA committee for example, gave Michigan State a 7 seed in the East Region. Many people including myself thought that MSU was severely under-seeded heading into the tourney, but never thought that they had a prayer to get to Indianapolis.

After holding off Georgia, it seemed inevitable that MSU would probably fall against an extremely talented Virginia squad. The one thing that you must always remember is to never count out a Tom Izzo coached team in the month of March. He is the man of March for a reason. Izzo’s game plan and adjustments in the Virginia game were spectacular, and sure enough, the Spartans had the Cavaliers playing Michigan State’s game. In the Sweet 16, Oklahoma ran out of gas and looked exhausted in the second half, as MSU slowly yet surely pulled away.

Today’s win against Louisville was arguably the most impressive win of the year. Despite trailing by double digits at halftime, Izzo rallied the troops in the second half, as the Spartans looked like a completely different team. Back and forth they went, as the Spartans refused to go away. In the overtime period, MSU did what we all expected them to do at this point; show up clutch. Bryn Forbes’ 3 pointer and Branden Dawson’s put back sealed the deal, as Louisville’s offense fell apart in overtime. And once again, Tom Izzo is going to the Final Four.

Travis Trice and Branden Dawson have been the key catalysts for Michigan State during this run. Both seniors were desperate to get to a final four, and they were not going to let anything get in the way. Trice’s defense has been solid all tournament, but his ball handling skills, and lethal three point shooting have carried MSU deep into this year’s tourney. Dawson has been the best overall defensive player for the Spartans, and has been the ultimate rebounding machine. Dawson was absolutely impressive against Montrezl Harrell of Louisville in the Elite 8.

Izzo has gotten the best out of his entire team at just the right time. Bryn Forbe’s defense has drastically improved. Marvin Clark Jr. has played several valuable minutes, and can be a major energy booster off of the bench. Matt Costello and Gavin Schilling have turned their defense up big time, and have been incredibly important during this tournament run on both ends of the floor. Tum Tum Nairn has done an excellent job distributing the ball at point guard, and has done a phenomenal job at being a vocal leader on the floor. Denzel Valentine has made a few bone headed plays every now and then, but he is the most clutch player on this Spartan team outside of Trice.

Izzo has always been the most underrated coach in all of college basketball. This year’s team was doubted by many, including many Michigan State fans. It is not a coincidence that the Spartans defeated Virginia, Oklahoma, and Louisville their last three tournament games. Izzo has out-coached everyone so far, and his players have continued to play to their maximum potential.

No one obviously knows how the final four will turn out, but if you have not learned anything yet, one thing is for sure; don’t you dare count out Michigan State.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>