As MSU head coach Tom Izzo prepared his team for its fifth Sweet Sixteen journey in six years, he couldnt help but compare this years 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 its important for his team to build its own identity and thats exactly what they are doing.
"Im trying to get this to team to get their own identity," Izzo said at Tuesdays press conference. "I think each team has to get its own identity.
"Now were 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. Thats 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 youve left your mark"
After Sundays 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, lets lock up, lets do this, lets 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.
Alan Andersons 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.
"Hes starting to see the floor a lot better. Hes pushing the ball up better and starting to understand the position a little bit better. Hes definitely been a key to our winning seven of the last eight," Izzo said.
Izzo mentioned hes 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 shouldnt disrespect what I say because weve been to three Final Fours.
"Well you know what some of those kids werent with us. What we had in the past, is kids that said, hey, you know what hes a jerk or hes this or hes that, but its 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 its totally there? No. But, I think weve 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 didnt think this team could make it to the Final Four. Izzo then said, after breezing through the first tow rounds, he definitely thinks its very possible.
But he realizes that theres still a lot of work to do.
"If theyre expecting to win it, theyre in for a rude awakening."