Friday, April 2, 2010
Tom Izzo Creates a Triumphant Brand, Now Is MSU's Time to Win It All
Here they are again, returning as Big Ten saviors, the well-coached and well-experienced Spartans. What's a usual resemblance of last year's storyline, Michigan State has battled adversity and withstood the fear to arrive on the finest stage in college hoops, a perennial stage that represents the signs of redemption.
Again, the kids from the city bring humanity to an ailing state experiencing much misery for its economic downturns that have heightened unemployment rates and crippled the auto industries. Again, the kids are given an opportunity to reprieve and win it all. Again, the landscape of Michigan State is a well-respected coaching standard invoked with the cleverness of Tom Izzo, who has been all about guiding the Spartans yelling and demanding that his players press on.
He doesn't mind scolding his players or giving much-needed advice, as some of his players may actually feel he's personally attacking them or being a nuisance. But his sharpness is beyond verbal attacks, and instead, he's acting as a teacher and mentor, critiquing the way his players perform in each game.
Similar to last year, the masses have forgotten and written off Michigan State. Never mind their miracle run a year ago. Never mind their profound run to clinch a Final Four berth in their home state, in front of the wildest and craziest Spartan fan base. In the stands, the fans share their appreciation with warmth cheers, but more than anything, admires Izzo by wearing "IZZONE" t-shirts flaunting school spirit and valuing a masterful coach.
Sometimes he's questioned about failing to win big games, but somehow always pioneers the Spartans to the Final Four. Sometimes, he's viewed as an overbearing individual with an ego higher than most collegiate coaches, but he's humbled to coach such an energetic and explosive core. And sometimes he's a victim at fallen out of contention, but finds a way to get back up and win the biggest game. The student population of 45,520 is convinced that the Spartans are much improved than the one that reached the national championship game last year, before North Carolina routed them badly.
Right now, a tremendous amount of pressure is on Izzo, finally influencing doubters to believe in a magical run without its star and primary leader Kalin Lucas, their best player who tore his Achilles in the final minutes of the first half in a second-round game in the NCAA tourney. None of this is a coincidence or a fluke, particularly when Izzo motivates and applies his players with useful messages. Also, you can point out that he graduates most of his student athletes, and somehow encourages them to take another shot at winning a national championship.
For years, we've debated about an awful system that hasn't compromised with universities and its trustees, but Michigan State isn't one of them, refusing to allow student athletes to disrespect academia and fathoms the magnitude of education. Or is Izzo's coaching habits and guidance inspiring his kids to remain another year in school? It clearly could be a combination of both. It's not regular that players depart for the pros after one or two seasons, having to rebuild an elite program every few seasons.
Maybe it's a privilege playing for a coach that expects a laborious effort and critical focus, in which the athletes have no problem returning for a few more seasons. They realize the likelihood of winning it all under a mastermind coach. They realize he's one of the greatest collegiate coaches, adjusting weaknesses and building around talent. As it is, there's great chemistry, emphasis, and instructed knowledge that no other coach matches.
No wonder he has the necessities and an equipped roster. No wonder players turn down the NBA and remain in school-not only to earned a degree, but accomplish a championship at the college level. To the man with the most credit, Izzo has led the Spartans to their sixth Final Four in the last 12 years, including two straight and counting, knowing his common principles frequently.
So clearly, Izzo is tied currently for the fifth-most appearance in the entire 72-year tournament history. He's the shortest coach, standing at 5-foot-8 or something like that, but has the loudest voice and communicates with his players. It's fair to suggest that the Spartans are preparing for battle and can win it all, two wins away from a national title, a triumphant moment he has tasted since 2002. If you are a non-believer, you might be making a bad mistake by not penciling in Michigan State on your bracket. Just a year ago, they were national title runner-ups and couldn't have possibly declined in a single season with the same players from a year ago.
Raymar Morgan knows it's critical to hit two free throws with less than a second left. And when Durrell Summers is on a hot streak, he's tough to contain, especially in his breakthrough performance last weekend against Tennessee. He led all scorers with 21, missing just two of 10 attempts. It's obvious that he transformed the landscape as an offensive weapon, as well as their momentum resource. In other words, he's very athletic and dangerous in the transition game, amazing the crowd with his highlight dunks and fast break vehemence.
For once, the tournament hasn't seen much of David or Goliath, but if there's any still lasting in a mystic tourney, it's backup little man, Korie Lucious. Last season, he suffered a broken foot during the Final Four, but now is a component to the Spartans ability to arrive almost each year in hopes of adding a national title.
It wasn't long ago that the Spartans were no longer alive after losing Lucas to his injury. But Izzo's Spartans never quit, finding enough life elsewhere. Much has to do with the shortest man with the loudest voice. This year, they may cut down a net and hoist a trophy.
Now is the time to win.