MSU expects some familiarity with Virginia

Nonconference and conference schedule leaves Izzo expecting his team will be ready for physical game with the Cavaliers on Friday in New York.

Tom Izzo has earned a reputation at Michigan State for playing anyone, anywhere throughout the regular season.

It might mean taking lumps and losses, its biggest benefit comes once March and the NCAA Tournament is rolling around.

"I still think the biggest strength this program has had for 17 years is we've been able to play different styles," Izzo said. "I've always said that the preseason schedule when it was off the charts, it wasn't all because of the tough teams.

"It was because of the different styles, and it helps prepare you."

No longer is that variety and prep exclusive to nonconference play, though, Izzo said Tuesday. With the addition of new coaches, more styles have made their way into the Big Ten.

"We have some more diverseness, if that's a word, to our conference now," he said. "We have pressing teams. We have zone teams. We have man teams.

"But for the most part, you do have different styles, and then when you go outside the box and you play a Kentucky or you play a Carolina or you play a Texas, you play more athletic teams, you play bigger teams, all those things happen you, and that's what you go back to when you get to the tournament. You always say, well, this guy's team plays something like this."

In Friday's Sweet 16 opponent, Virginia, Izzo said he sees a little bit of old school Big Ten teams – one in particular.

"I wanted to say in Virginia, this team plays like the Wisconsin teams, and then I remembered most of these guys were five and six years old when there were the real fist-fights back in '99 and 2000," he said. "So I didn't go quite there, but I did use some examples of teams we've played, and I think in the long run, at least I know how they're going to play, so maybe it's a little more comforting.

"I think it'll be more of a slugfest because both teams kind of do play a little bit similar, although we run probably more, but they run more than you think."

There is no doubt about what the Cavaliers bring to the table though beyond being a No. 1 seed.

From size to physicality to toughness, it will be a challenge for the Spartans.

"They've gotten it covered in every way you can have it covered, and I think the bottom line is this is one of the best defensive teams in the country – the best if you look at points per game," Izzo said.

Spartan Nation Top Stories