Tom Izzo Kicks of New Season With Questions, and Plenty of Material To Find Answers!
Big Ten Basketball Media Days
Fresh off the worst loss in NCAA tournament history the Spartans newly enshrined Hall of Fame head coach stepped to the podium here in the nation’s capital smiling from ear to ear. Last season’s ending didn’t tell the story of a team he loved. This season opens with plenty of questions, but he has all the material he needs for some impressive answers.
Ben Carter was a transfer player that suffered an injury early this offseason. Izzo had big plans for him and he finds himself looking for solutions. Not only will Izzo need to replace his minutes on the offensive end, but more importantly in the post on defense. As previously stated, there are a myriad of questions, but not without a cornucopia of potential answers.
Izzo told me, “Well, I don't think there is any question we're going to miss Ben Carter. He will be out for an extended period of time. I think he's going to have surgery here in the next day or two and we'll kind of know more. But it's not going to make us real big. But we've been in that position before. We're probably going to play a center, a point guard and three guys that can run, shoot and do some things. So who is going to pick up his minutes? I think Kenny Goins is going to get more minutes, but no question that Nick Ward's going to play more than we thought he would play when we recruited him. But part of that is because of the loss of Carter. And part of it is because Nick's played awfully well. He's been a little better than we thought. Which normally the case is you get them into high school and they're great, you get them to college, and they're good. I actually think Nick has been a little better in college than I saw him in high school.”
But for Izzo, a season full of questions with plenty of material to find answers is fun. As usual the Big Ten juggernaut will be a tight rope of fun, but being in a great league also makes his Spartans battle hardened when March Rolls around.
“Boy, it's harder to assess it, even though there's a lot of people back. Each team has lost some key people, whether it be Indiana or even a Purdue, Wisconsin has lost the least. So I think everybody has picked to win it, and rightfully so. But I think you're going to see improvement from teams like Illinois and Michigan who had a lot of injuries. I think those teams are going to improve a lot, the Michigan States and Iowa’s, and Ohio State a little bit lost some people. But I think some of the peripheral teams that haven't -- Penn State I think is going to take a big jump in my humble opinion. So I don't know. I haven't looked yet at who plays who once, who plays who twice. All those things that usually make a difference in the conference race. I just think it's going to be four, five teams ranked in the top 25, and I think it will remain that way all year. There may be some jockeying where some go up and some go down. Our league has always been competitive. There are too many good coaches, and I think it will be very good again this year.”
This was an interesting year with so many players able to look at the draft and pull their name out at the last second if they so chose. It didn’t work out as well for Izzo as other schools and his answer to the changing game he loves made the gatered media from around the nation chuckle when asked about players being able to come back.
“Yeah, it made me feel awful. Mine left and the others stayed. No, I think it's good. You're seeing more kids staying, and hopefully it's to help with something that I've been part of, which is try to give those kids more chance to make an educated decision instead of a rash decision. But I also think they realize that the NCAA and college sports in general have done a better job of trying to facilitate kids better and better whether it be facilities, whether it be some of the new rules, and they better realize that still no matter how much money you make, once you go to the NBA or get out, it's a real job now, and college isn't as bad as you think. So it's good a lot of guys have stayed in there. There were some key guys in our league that I thought might go but stayed. In all honesty, I'm happy for those coaches, I'm happy for those players. I think we are trying to rush the process sometimes too much. But that's the day and age that we're in. So I think it's good for college basketball. But I think it's even better for the players.”
So as a new season gets closer with every second, it is a new dynamic for Spartan basketball with so many questions. What makes this season so full with expectation is that never has Izzo had so much building material to find the answers. His best recruiting class ever is now in East Lansing and an Izzo team that could start with a 2-6 record that would surely make the natives restless, but they could also be the same exact team that very well ends up cutting down the nets of Izzo’s second national title.
Questions are concerning, but they are also fun when you have the building blocks to be better. Izzo does.