Spartans Excited to Be Here In New York, But Not Content Until Indianapolis

Hondo S. Carpenter

Spartans Excited to Be Here In New York, But Not Content Until Indianapolis

Carrier Dome

Syracuse, NY

When I suggested to the Spartan Nation back in January that this was possibly Tom Izzo’s least talented team of the last 18 years I was excoriated. After Izzo admitted it this week people are starting to truly appreciate the magic he performs in March.

But don’t equate excitement for being the Sweet 16 with being content. Izzo has said numerous times over his career, “At Michigan State we only judge a season a success when we hang a banner.” With two more wins the Spartans can do that and despite this teams shortcomings the goal doesn’t change.

Moments ago Izzo said, “We're excited to be here. It's been a different Michigan State year. That doesn't mean a negative. It's just not maybe the same kind of team we've been. I think a little less in talent, a little less in maybe the physicality of our team, but we've really grown as a team, and we've done the ultimate. That we play as good of a team defense, meaning everyone helping each other. So, again, it's taught me something. You never quit learning in this job. I've learned a lot about our team this year. I'm really proud of what they've accomplished so far. We'll see what happens from here.”

So after going for several high level recruits and striking out, does Izzo feel validation for bringing this team this far? “I don't know if it's a validation. It's just you do what you do. There's a lot of different ways to win. I think a lot of coaches have done it different ways. One of the biggest ways is you'd better adjust to the talent you have and play somewhat within your own system because you don't want to change everything, but make adjustments to the personnel you have. I know one thing: I wouldn't trade anybody as far as the way these guys have handled things this year, the class in the way they've dealt with things, winning and losing, the frustration of the free-throw situation we went through and how they handled that, what they are as students, what they are as people. I'm cool with it all.”

The National media tried today to get the Spartan players to share the secret of the Izzo magic potion in March. It’s so simple they laughed. Denzel Valentine said, “That's a funny question because it just happens like that, I think. Our focus remains the same throughout the season. From day one, Coach Izzo is hard on us, just like it's March. When we get to this time, our focus steps up a little bit, but nothing changes. I just think it's unique. We just have the type of players, when the money's on the line and the game's on the line, we step up to the plate, and that's what Michigan State is about.”

Even Branden Dawson was visibly moved trying to explain the Sweet 16 success for Michigan State. “Coach has been going through this thing for so long. We trust in Coach. As far as myself and Travis, we've been to a few Sweet 16 games, and just to see his approach towards getting us prepared and his enthusiasm towards everything, just practice, the films and the walk-throughs. A lot of guys complain about, oh, we're watching too much film, but you know Coach is going to always have us prepared. Coach around this time just has passion for it because he knows and he expects us to be great.”

That passion is what makes Izzo great and thus Michigan State great in March. But don’t be fooled, MSU may not have his most individually talented team, but he still sees Indianapolis and the Final Four on his calendar and so do the players.

At Michigan State it’s about banners, even on a down year.

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