Michigan State Spartans head coach Tom Izzo opening statement: Well, I need to start out by saying I thought Middle Tennessee played awfully well. They started making threes fall down from 30, and they outplayed us. I mean, there's no way I can put it any differently. They deserved to win. They were very well coached. They ran good stuff. We just really struggled to guard the smaller guys on the perimeter and struggled to find lineups.
And Zel's had an incredible, incredible career, much less year. And just wasn't in the cards today. And Bryn early -- and Matt, really happy for Matt because he played one of his best games. And I think he's put himself in a position where he'll get to play some after this. But I felt bad for my guys. They've given me, this university, this program and the city a lot of stuff. But a better team won today. They really did. And we gotta take that like men and be class about it like I think they are. So that's it.
Q. Tom, how do you take a loss like this and turn it into something to motivate the guys going forward next year?
TOM IZZO: Not to insult you, just a ridiculous question. I don't care about next year. I don't care about tomorrow. That's the problem. You know it's always what's next? There's three guys here that gave me every single thing they had, and I don't care about next year. I don't even care about tomorrow right now. I just care about the present and what they did for me, for us. And somehow I've got to make sure that in all this disappointment that does not get lost, because that's the problem with sports; it does get lost. And somebody's not happy unless they win it all. It just was disappointing that we didn't move farther than we did. But I learned nothing, zero, for next year. I got 200 days to worry about next year, and I'm not going to worry about it one bit today. Sorry, too, by the way.
Q. Tom, wondered privately how concerned you were about that team and your ability to guard them, especially at the 4 spot? Obviously you used a lot of different people there today.
TOM IZZO: Well, we were concerned. But I'll be honest with you, in my wildest dreams I didn't think they'd hit some of the shots they hit. So I was more disappointed in the way we turned the ball over and did things that didn't give ourselves a chance. I mean, we were shooting 50 percent ourselves, you know? We just -- we turned it over too much and we didn't give ourselves a chance to score. And then we -- you know, we didn't guard them real good. But, man, they made some shots. Boy, really take my hat off to them on some of the shots they made.
Q. It's hard to digest right now, but how proud are you of these three seniors to your left and everything that they've done for your program and this team, not just this year, but over their careers?
TOM IZZO: Well, you know, I've known Denzel since he was real young. And the changes Bryn made and then Matt, really just kind of came on and had an incredible senior year. So proud, I guess the proudest you could say if my son could be like them I'd be a happy guy.
Q. Tom, you talk often about senior classes leaving a footprint. Can these young men, be not only on the court but on the true court, the true definition of what an MSU student-athlete is?
TOM IZZO: Look, I can't sit here, it's just not in my nature to feel good about everything, but footprint, they left a big foot footprint. So many different ways. The work ethic, the attention to detail, the classroom, the hospital visits. Doesn't matter what it was in. They made it. They gave me everything. They gave me the ability to sleep with two eyes shut again. That disappeared for a few years.
When I get through today, I'll be able to tell them how I really feel about them. But I'm like them, it's just a tough day today, and I don't want to be overdramatic. But I made the comment, I put myself out there that this team had a chance to win a national championship. We just got beat. I want everybody to know this team had a chance to win a national championship. I don't feel one bit different. It's what they say about pro ball in college, one-and-done time. Anybody in your -- as I told my team wonders, why I'm crazy sometimes -- one-and-done time makes it a little different than best-of-seven.
And one bad day and you're going home. And so they've done it all for us. They've done it all for our school. I mean, there was more than me that owes them, my assistant coaches, everybody owes them. I mean, the leadership they showed last summer, you know, it's legendary. And you're right, those that know me, I don't make many predictions. Those that know me I don't say this team was better than this team, was better than this team. This team was a lot like Zel. It was the most versatile team. It did things off the court, on the court and in the classroom like none I've ever had. It just didn't work out for this team, but it won't dampen my respect, love, care, it won't dampen it at all. It will be used for whatever length of time that I'm here. In other words, other teams are going to hear starting next two weeks from now when we start looking at things again, they're going to hear what this team did. That's probably the best compliment you can give them.
Q. I'm just wondering, since last year's Final Four run, so much talk about getting back, winning a national championship. Was there ever a point where maybe you guys felt pressure when the game was close that maybe that was a weight on you guys, or you are just kind of in a tight game at that point?
TOM IZZO: I'll answer that. There was pressure. They put it on me and I put it on them. Isn't going to change as long as I'm here. That's why you come here. You come here to win a few games. You do that at Northern Michigan. Come here to try to win a championship, and that's the pressure. If that's pressure, as hard as these guys worked, if it's pressure to have to come into this tournament, that's sad, because the pressure was what they did when nobody was watching. And they did it all spring, summer and fall. So I love pressure. I'm going to put it on me.
Q. Tom, is there something that you saw defensively or offensively which is why Deyonta Davis only played 15 minutes tonight?
TOM IZZO: No, we put him in a tough position having to guard a guy that could put it on the floor and hit a three. I mean, Upshaw is a good player. He draws fouls, and he does a lot of things. It just wasn't that kind of game for Deyonta. So it was more of us putting him in a bad position than anything he did.
I knew he would struggle some, but I just didn't think they would hit the shots they hit, and they did. Make no mistake about it. I'm not sure anybody in my career has shot those kind of numbers, 57-percent. I've never seen that happen to us. So Deyonta, just a more difficult time, moving his feet, doing the things he did. Matt was playing so well, I didn't want to play him at center. So that's why he was a little shell-shocked by some of it, I think.
Q. Tom, there's a lot of emotion up there, but just a minute ago you seemed to kind of feel a new wave of it as Denzel was talking about having the responsibility of this moment and not coming through. Is it hard for you to hear him characterize the end of his career like that?
TOM IZZO: Yeah. You're supposed to coach every team and every game the same way. But let's face it, there are some guys and some teams that just do more for you. They resurrected me, for whatever length I coach, whatever number of years it's going to be, I'll owe them that. They brought the fun back into it. Not a lot of bad days at practice for the 120-some we had. Never a bad trip. Never a concern.
I can look everybody in the eye and say I'll probably never have a team like this. I'll probably never have guys like this, but we'll shoot for it. But this is a special group. And that's why there's all the emotion. And that's why it's a tough time.
Q. With what you all guys have been through and all the expectations in your career, is this the toughest game you've had to swallow?
TOM IZZO: Yeah, yeah. It is. Well, second only to when we lost to Weber State when Jud was done. That was the toughest for me. But this one was a similar deal. Eric Snow, Shawn Respert, Jud Heathcote, guys that I'll be indebted to the rest of my life and I will be these guys, too. It was tough. But the good news is I think you can tell all four of us know we got beat by a team that played better than us today. There were no bad calls, no goaltending at the end. Nobody missed a free throw that would have saved the day. We just kind of got beat. We could never get the momentum, and we could never get the lead and that was disappointing.