Two-day turnaround success breeds confidence

Players win the first game of the weekend, coaches win the second is Tom Izzo's message and it is on his end now after the Spartans took down Virginia. Odds say the Spartans come out on top with Izzo's 19-3 record.

Adreian Payne stood in the hallway outside Michigan State's locker room in the wee hours of Saturday morning after getting one step closer to his first Final Four appearance.

He laughed thinking about the night ahead for Spartans coach Tom Izzo.

"He's about go to work," Payne said. "He will probably be up late, him and the staff."

The preparation for Michigan State facing Connecticut got underway quickly after the Spartans' took that first step of winning Friday, but with Izzo, it almost feels like more than one step.

The Spartans' head coach is 19-3 with a two-day turnaround in the NCAA Tournament – and 6-1 in the Elite 8 – with all three losses coming to No. 1 seeds.

So his "get me through the first game and I'll get you through the second" message has a lot of ground to stand on.

"It definitely gives you confidence," sophomore Matt Costello said.

Izzo credited the system put in at Michigan State back with a staff that included Tom Crean, Brian Gregory and Stan Heath for the success.

"I'm sure a lot of people have good systems, but ours is proven to be pretty doggone good," he said Tuesday.

This particular Sweet 16 to Elite 8 turnaround is a little bit different as Izzo said there would be more practice than usual because of still developing cohesiveness since getting the full lineup healthy. But the usual structure remains in place with a variety of prep for the upcoming opponent.

"The preparation is key," sophomore Denzel Valentine said. "A lot of film, a lot of walkthroughs."

Some of the walkthroughs take place in hotel ballrooms – nothing new for Izzo.

"We do it in our ballroom, tape the court down and walk through some plays and their players and things like that," Valentine said. "It's interesting."

Another key, Valentine said, is getting plenty of rest. The Spartans were admittedly tired after winning a physical game with Virginia after midnight Friday night.

But rest is available in the days after Sunday, if the Spartans come out with a win.

"The second game is just play hard and give it everything you've got because after this game, you've got a week to prepare and rest," he said. "So just leave it all on the floor."

But like Costello, Valentine said it comes back to the confidence the coaching staff's preparation instills in them.

Sophomore guard Gary Harris pointed to the passion Izzo brings that separates him. Plus, he brings the experience in the NCAA Tournament that no one on the current Michigan State roster has.

"He's done it before," Harris said. "He knows how to get to a Final Four. It's up to us players to listen to him and what he has to say."

But with their half of the bargain complete, the onus falls on Izzo to uphold his end.

"We did our part and we still got another half of it," Payne said.


Spartan Digest Top Stories