Spartans Basketball Notebook

After winning eight of their last nine contests, is the Spartans basketball team developing their own identity? Tom Izzo believes so, and the ball club couldn't have picked a more appropriate time. SI analyst Ryan Wallace provides us with another indepth basketball notebook, including several quotes from coach Izzo.

As MSU head coach Tom Izzo prepared his team for its fifth Sweet Sixteen journey in six years, he couldn’t help but compare this year’s team to his teams of the past.

The teams where Mateen Cleaves, Morris Peterson and Jason Richardson led the Spartans to three consecutive Final Fours, but Izzo knows that it’s important for his team to build it’s own identity and that’s exactly what they are doing.

"I’m trying to get this to team to get their own identity," Izzo said at Tuesday’s press conference. "I think each team has to get its own identity.

"Now we’re in a situation where because we have a void in the middle, if this team can get to Final Four and then re-establish and set the standards then teams can say, ‘hey remember the 2003 team.’ That’s what I always like talking about is when people leave here and 10 or 15 years go by are they still talking about your team, if they are then you’ve left your mark"

Huddling up

After Sunday’s game with Florida Izzo said he saw glimpses of what he saw during his other Final Four teams. He clarified that on Tuesday by saying they are by no means the same exact team, but there are similarities.

"I just felt that there was some confidence that we could stop some people, he said. "I heard the guys say, ‘let’s lock up, let’s do this, let’s do that,’ you know and we were in a hostile environment, so we took that as a challenge instead of trying to creep in there.

"We harped on them so much on the Oklahoma and Kentucky teams and going on the road and playing good teams that I think our guys almost relish that. I guess that’s the part that’s like the old days."

Cruise control

Alan Anderson’s emergence at point guard has been a big reason for the Spartans tournament run, and Izzo said having him starting to feel comfortable can only be positive.

"He’s starting to see the floor a lot better. He’s pushing the ball up better and starting to understand the position a little bit better. He’s definitely been a key to our winning seven of the last eight," Izzo said.

Izzo mentioned he’s even caught the attention of a former Spartan great. Izzo said he got a call from Earvin "Magic" Johnson telling him that he needs to take the defensive rebounds and run with it.

Believe it, achieve it

"This team I think starting believing in each other," Izzo said. "Sometimes I think maybe I looked at it like you shouldn’t disrespect what I say because we’ve been to three Final Fours.

"Well you know what some of those kids weren’t with us. What we had in the past, is kids that said, ‘hey, you know what he’s a jerk or he’s this or he’s that, but it’s going to pay off in the end.’ Well those guys are gone, so kids have nobody to look at but me. God bless them for that. And I think it took a little longer for the trust factor to begin. Do I think it’s totally there? No. But, I think we’ve made some steps in the right direction."

Final Four, who woulda have thunk it

Izzo, who is known for being honest, said that before the tournament started that he didn’t think this team could make it to the Final Four. Izzo then said, after breezing through the first tow rounds, he definitely thinks it’s very possible.

But he realizes that there’s still a lot of work to do.

"If they’re expecting to win it, they’re in for a rude awakening."

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