Izzo served as a mentor to Indiana coach Tom Crean, so he has paid close attention to the Indiana program ever since Crean arrived nearly six years ago.
Indiana is still a work in progress, and its fan base received a heavy dose of that reality on Saturday when the Hoosiers fell 73-56 at home to Izzo and No. 5 Michigan State. Fans began filing to the exits with more than five minutes remaining in the game, an unusual sight at Assembly Hall.
"This is where Sheehey and Yogi have gotta be men. I mean, they have to stand up," Izzo said. "Tom has been threw it. He has rebuilt programs, he's done it, he knows what it's like. He'll be fine.
"But with those young freshmen, that's when your upperclassmen have to stand up and say how it is, and explain how it is."
Ferrell, in particular, has had to carry a heavy load for the Hoosiers (10-5, 0-2) this season. Not only is he responsible for leading the team from the point guard position, he's also Indiana's only consistent outside shooter. Ferrell again led the Hoosiers in scoring with 17 points on Saturday.
Sheehey, the team's senior leader, has had an up and down season, but he was terrific on Saturday. He did an admirable job guarding Michigan State big man Adreian Payne, who is much bigger and strong than he is and entered Saturday averaging 17 points per game. He scored only four against IU.
Sheehey also did it on the offensive end, where he scored 13 points on 4-of-6 shooting, including 3-of-3 from beyond the arc.
Crean has been demanding of both Ferrell and Sheehey to grow in their leadership roles this season, and they must continue to make progress in that area. Because, frankly, Izzo is exactly right. These freshmen are talented, but they don't have a good understanding of the college game.
But even more important is the Hoosiers' need to find someone else to help Ferrell carry the scoring lead. Noah Vonleh is capable, but hasn't been nearly as productive lately. Part of that is due to foul trouble, part of it is due to him not demanding the ball inside, and part of it is his teammates not finding him in the right spots. Ferrell is scoring well enough, but he needs help. He can't do it alone offensively.
"They played so well against Illinois and probably should have won that game. They didn't play as well today," Izzo said. "I think Indiana will get a lot better. I really, really do. This was a game maybe they just didn't play as well in."