Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo talked about this 20th straight NCAA dance, 1st round opponent Miami & MORE!

Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo talked about this 20th straight NCAA dance, 1st round opponent Miami & MORE!

Well, I'd be lying if I didn't tell you I was ecstatic to get in. The only reason I say that is, as I told my players, everybody thinks it's my time of year, its really the program's time of year. It's the program that has done this year after year after year with different players and I think that's what was important. I told my players that I appreciated the fact that we pushed and pulled a lot this year, we went through a lot. They could have thrown in the towel a few times, they hung in there. I still think we are playing some of our better basketball. After looking at the film of the last game and realizing that this team, Minnesota shot 41 (precent from the field), 33 (percent from three) against us. We out-rebounded them. We didn't make any shots, you don't make shots you look worse than you even felt. I did not think we played as well in that game as we played in the other couple of games but I do think we are tournament ready.

Playing Miami, I don't know a ton about them but I will in the next 7-8 hours. I have watched them play more than a couple times, I know Jim (Larrañaga), I think they're very well coached. Tulsa, going back to my seven-week stay in Tulsa. I'm sure I'll remember maybe one restaurant, if it's still there but other than that I think that's good first too. We play on Friday, which I think is great for us because we need to work on us a little bit. We still need to improve what we do, gives us an extra day of that. I like the fact that we are only a one time zone difference instead of going somewhere where we are two or three. In general I really, really mean this and I'm proud of this team for what they've accomplished. It won't be the biggest accomplishment we've had, it won't go down by many of our fans as a real accomplishment, but when we have that round table meeting hopefully sometime from now maybe you'll have a better appreciation of what they've gone through and what they've done. I think they're ready to try to make a run and that's the time of year it is so we will see what happens.

On former MSU teams that were a lower seed in the tournament and succeeded, and if this year's team has any similar characteristics...
Well what they don't have is this team I think is ranked, according to Matt (Larson) like 321st in experience out of 350 teams. We usually have more experienced teams. What we do have, I think we have a couple unique players. Nick (Ward) is a different bird in there, he's not something we've had in the past and Miles (Bridges) is a guy that I think can get you 30 and 20, 30 and 15, I really do. We've got some things there, it's going to come to we're going to have to shoot the ball better. A lot of that is going to fall on Matt (McQuaid), Joshua (Langford) and Cassius (Winston) and probably Alvin (Ellis III), but you get to this tournament so many things like foul trouble and that can be either for you or against you. I think what we have is a very good staff up there and a very good video staff that knows how to get some things turned around. By the time I get out of this press conference I'm sure I'll have a lot of tape to watch and I think we have a blueprint on how to do it, just have to plug in the different pieces now.

On the reaction of the players and the preparation for the weekend even though they're the lower seed, and if he will still do the same preparation as when MSU is the higher seed...
I'm going to do that, yeah I really am just because again it's not about me and it's not about this team, it's about where the program is at. The program mandates that you try to win the weekend and you still have to win the weekend one game at a time, but we'll be looking at a lot of film on Miami and we'll do what we always do, we'll look at some film on campus. Difference between being an eight and nine, good chances are Kansas won't get upset so we won't have to watch two films, or two groups of people. 

Our player's reaction, they were excited. I think there's probably some relief, the ones that really questioned since some people had us still on the bubble a little bit. You never know in these circumstances what can happen, certain teams win or lose. I just had no idea this year. I couldn't have predicted where a lot of teams would be. I was surprised at a couple, I was surprised Michigan was a seven and Minnesota was a five, that surprised me in our own league. Northwestern an eight surprised me a little bit but I don't really know if it matters as much anymore, I said that before. I said that the last three or four years other than last year, being a one matters a little bit more but there are so many tough matchups. When you look at 10, 11, 12 even, seven, eight, six, they're all such good games, good teams. It's going to come down to what everybody says, the matchups, do you matchup with somebody. I don't know enough, I heard that Miami is not overly big like some teams we've played which is a benefit for us with the lack of size that we do have. Which that is another ranking that he gave me that is almost near 300 in our average height so those two things don't bold as well for us but I think we learned something from this tournament. I think having a one and done experience and realizing how well we played against Penn State and that we missed some layups and did some things that are fixable but once you don't do them you go home. I think that's what this team needed to see that and understand that and learn that. We are not a veteran team and so they were excited, they were.

On what he has to do differently in the next five days for the players to realize it's not AAU and the finality of this tournament...
A lot of that is going to come from within them. They're just going to have to realize. Every coach is complaining about the same thing so everybody's got those problems but the sense of urgency that they haven't had to have most of their life, it has to change. We've spent the afternoon looking at our game film from Minnesota just to show them just about every single play what we did right or wrong and with every single guy, you should have been spaced more, you should have been this, you should have been that. We are just going to keep trying to hammer on them. We looked at the missed layups, it just took one or two, or missed run backs that they got an extra bucket on, or a missed assignment because they got a three because we didn't switch. That's all it took, it was a two point game late in the game. By tomorrow we'll probably have some tape of our last 10 games of the things that we did well and the things that we did poorly. We lose to Illinois it's a one possession game at the end. We lose at Maryland and it's a missed layup at the end. You have to show them that so they understand it because they're used to being able to just play again. It is a sad commentary that a lot of coaches are using but hopefully that will change too. Maybe we change the AAU format where you don't get to just keep playing if you lose, make them understand how to win.

On if the strength of schedule was considered...
I'm going to really look at that, I really am. I told Jack (Ebling) that too, I need to sit down with some people and really try to figure out how it has helped or hurt. I've got Matt working on something where I'm looking at all these teams over the last five years and who it's helped and hurt, whose been a seven, eight, nine, 10, 11 seed.

On the strength of schedule clearly helping this season...
I really haven't looked at the other 10, 11, 12 seeds. I think Xavier was an 11 but they lost a player and lost some games right at the very end. If it did, God Bless. I could look at last year and say, did it? That's the problem we have no consistency on what is what. Those committees change and there's only 10 guys and a couple off or on could change it a lot. God Bless my AD (Mark Hollis) for being on it, not that he probably had much to do with ours because he's not allowed to but I'm not sure that's still the right way. I think there has to be some consistency and then tell us strength of schedule means everything and you know I don't know if I'll get any better home games because I can't get many teams that want to play home and home but if they do I'll play everybody anywhere. When I see what the other teams were that will really make a difference compared to how many games you won or lost, there's a lot that goes into it. 

On the history with Tulsa and the history with Larrañaga and the meeting in the NCAA Tournament in the first round game...
So maybe this is good luck because we were the higher seed then and now we are the lower seed. Maybe his reporters are asking him the opposite question now. Jim is a good coach, he's a guy that I've known for a long time, a friend of mine, a good guy. He's done a good job there but it's ok not to like him for a weekend. If it works to use that game, George Mason beat us in, I'm cool with that. I'm not a proud man, anyway I can win I'll win  but I don't think that's going to have a lot of bearing on anything. We have to play, we have to shoot the ball better, which we had been most of the year and I think we have to play with another sense of urgency. I don't know why it bothers some people that I say it, it shouldn't. It's not a surprise. You saw two teams playing in the Big Ten Tournament today and according to Matt are in the top 50 or actually the top 10 of BCS schools in experience and that's usually what helps you in tournament time, but what I'm hoping what helps us is that we've learned from our mistakes and I think on given nights we still played pretty good basketball, even at the beginning of the year and we are going to have to find a way to do that for a weekend.

On understanding the finality of it and if the Big Ten Tournament was a wakeup call to some of them at all...
When you say wake up call, the wakeup call didn't happen for Denzel (Valentine) and them either. Some of those wakeup call things, I agree and I've used the same term I just try each day to get them to understand that the `my bads' go out the door, you have to get rid of those things. But it is a freshmen thing and then a freshmen thing when you don't have junior and seniors telling them or a number of them is a problem. 

On if it actually happening to them and if that says more...
Yeah it does. I don't know if it happens to them once it does, but yes I think it does. I do think watching Nick's response to his first half of play or what's a better word, his first half of breathing in that last game. Watching his response, watching the film it was like what am I doing? I said well how would you grade yourself? He said F, I said Z but I mean he said F, he really did. Nick is one of our better players, it's just that there is moments and times when it was good that he saw that, it really was because during the game he didn't see it. You say you do that time and time again but this time as you say when you did it, you're out, you go home and then you watch Minnesota play. You talk about (Akeem) Springs didn't play and what could we have done and I think those are all good things that you do. Don't think the Denzel's, the Costello's (Matt Costello), and those guys at one time, the Dawson's (Branden Dawson) and Adreian (Adreian Payne), their freshmen and sophomore years. That's what I feel bad and that's what i told my team, we've demanded so much out of them. Kentucky is still Kentucky, give them all the credit in the world but I'd like to see Duke play those four freshmen and not those four upperclassmen and those four freshmen are really good. Our guys have done a lot more than I've given them credit for, our fans have. Have they satisfied me, no because our program is at a different level. Are there things I think we could have been doing that we should pick up on faster, yes. I think what's been the hardest for me is not playing the four freshmen, just not having a lot of other veterans around them to help so they might hear it from us in practice, hear it from us in a meeting, they were hearing it from Denzel in the airplane, in the lockerroom, in the hotel. That constant reminder, you just said do you think they get it now, well they were probably getting it 10 times that, some of the freshmen from last year and the year before, that's what's made it a little harder than I expected. 

On if there is anything the coaches can do to get the selection committee to clarify things ahead of time...
Well, I was just going to say, that is the whole problem I have. Did you think our win or getting to the finals and winning it did anything for us?

On the selection committee making a statement that the regular season means more with its seedings this season and if the coaching fraternity can get the committee to give them more defined criteria...
This group. Next year, there will be a different group. There are certain things where you guys give coaches way too much credit. I don't think so. I don't think until they change the format. They can't keep moving people around, because everybody that comes in has a different agenda. I don't know. They are never going to admit that those conference tournaments are nothing. They're not going to do that.  I still don't think that playing on Sunday is good for us. Listen to the rivalry guy that doesn't like Michigan but respects them. I think they deserved and earned the right with how they played at the end to not be that big of a gap between even Minnesota. It is such a late... there can't be a lot of maneuvering on Sunday. I wouldn't think. I guess someday there is a possibility I might find out because my AD is part of it, but at the same time... (Interjection)... We are playing so early next year they'll forget about us by the next week. That's another story. There's another change in the rules. Does that hurt us? Does that help us? More than some other conferences that are playing in the last weekend? There are a lot of variables in these things. If it is going to be apples-to-apples, then they give you the rules and you play by the rules. If it's apples-to-oranges and it changes, it makes it very difficult for our schedule, it makes it very difficult for other teams. It's a tough deal. You have to ask someone a lot smarter than me for that. Put it this way, have you liked the way it has gone for the last eight years? Do you think there has been discrepancy year after year? So why is it going to be changing now? That's what's so hard. Are you willing to take the chance? My college coach told me moderation is the key to success.

On the tournament seeding having different rules each year...
I don't know if it's different rules, but a different emphasis on things. My favorite one is listening to the guys that say the RPI doesn't matter. That's my favorite one. They say, `Well, we don't look at the RPI.' But, top-25 wins, top-50 wins, top-100 wins are all RPI-driven. So the RPI does matter. And where that matters a lot, and what I think the hardest thing about schedule is, how do you get those teams like 275 and up? But, you've got to have some home games, especially if you're a team like us who is playing six or seven road games in the non conference. That is difficult. That is for that round table. This is about us trying to find a way to win a weekend. I'm excited about this opportunity. I don't think there was any good deal this year, because I think there would be tough teams no matter who you play. Like I said, I am happy as 10 men with where we are going and what we are playing. Tulsa and Buffalo aren't... I was going to say suburbs of the U.P., but the U.P. is probably suburbs of them, but it's not Florida or some of the other places. But, I don't get to see outdoors during that anyways, so it doesn't bother me one bit.

On how much he personally enjoys this time of year...
There is nothing like this time of year. I think Greg Ianni walked into my meeting and said, `This doesn't get old.' I said, `Well, to some people it does.' You look at some of those and you remember back when you made it and everybody is going crazy, and now, we just got maybe our family in the room and you're just watching it. It doesn't get old for me. It's just as exciting. It's an opportunity. It's like a rebirth. It's another season. And you get to throw away some things. Hopefully you throw away the bad and build on what you've learned from the good. You really get a chance to make a run. It's so fragile out there. You win one game and who knows what happens. You look at '10, and we beat Maryland and all of the sudden Kansas gets upset by Northern Iowa. Syracuse gets in by the skin of their teeth and all of the sudden Michigan State, their next opponent, gets beat, gets upset. Duke went through that two out of three years, losing to a 13-seed and a 15-seed. Sometimes, you move on because you get a break. Sometimes, you move on because you've earned a break and have played well. That's the uniqueness of this tournament. There are so many different styles and kinds of teams. The first thing I always look at when they ask me who you would like to play, and I always say, `Well, who has the least amount of bigs.' If somebody has four of them, that is a problem for us. If someone has one or two, well that is one big feather in our cap. At least that is something that we know our negative is not their positive. That's the cool thing about the tournament. It really comes down to matchups. There will be a lot of teams that beat a lot of teams because of just personnel, not necessarily who is the better team.

On if he has a better grasp of what he is going to get from his younger players in a game...
I honestly don't feel this comfortable with that yet. What I feel more comfortable with is, me and my staff have to do one hell of a job from the time I get out of this meeting until Wednesday. That might be phone calls, it might be lunches, it might be film sessions. It is going to be something outside of practice that we have to use our experience to help speed up their inexperience, I think. I might have every player that ever played in a tournament call our guys. There just has to be something to keep speeding it up. There were a lot of inconsistencies against Minnesota, I thought. We played really well against Maryland and Penn State, and then some inconsistencies came. In Cassius' case, he hurt his ankle. In Nick's case, I don't know. Don't ever discredit the opponent. Going against the best shot blocker in our league, did that have either a subtle impact or did that have no impact? You don't know. I wouldn't say that I feel as comfortable as I have with some teams, but I wouldn't expect to feel as comfortable. This is new territory, for really most of them. Even McQuaid and Goins, now remember, Goins played about four minutes in that Middle Tennessee game. We have more than just a couple of guys that don't have any experience. That can be the exciting thing, too. If you can play well and win a game, that can really carry you the other way. Then the enthusiasm, the excitement, all of the sudden you're playing better than you really are. I think we have a great opportunity. Does anybody want to be the 8/9? Probably not. Why? Because the 1-seeds don't get beat in the first weekend. But, if you can win that first game, what a great opportunity you have to play a team that has been one of the best teams all year in the country. One thing that is good for me, if we can beat Miami, at least we know Kansas. We have played them a lot over the past five, six years. Same coaches, same systems. So, I have no problem with our draw. Would it have been better to be a 10? That's what's funny, you complain if you don't get a low seed. And then you sit there as you go into the day and say, `Now wait a minute, when you look at the brackets, it might be better to be a 10 or even an 11 and play the 6. But, I think for our program, as you said, being a 9 speaks something about who we play, what we do. That's great. This whole thing isn't about the `Mr. March.' It's about the program right now. And the program, 20 straight years is going to mean so much to me later on in life. It means a lot to me now, but not even close to what it will mean later on. Some of you guys that were here with me at the beginning, the biggest thing I talked about even after we won it, come back 10 years, 15 years, are we consistent? Not always great, but are we pretty consistent? Twenty-straight years of doing something at this level is pretty consistent. I hope people appreciate it and I hope they appreciate it about this year's team, because their road to get there was not only tougher with the schedule, tougher with the travel with the schedule, that they didn't get to benefit from, and I could add up the things from Langford's injury to Miles' injury that really threw monkey wrenches in. I heard Chris Collins say something yesterday about Scottie Lindsey that, `Boy, Lindsey has played well the last two games after he struggled.' And he said, `Yeah, he was out three and a half weeks and it has taken him almost three weeks to come back.' I swear to you, most people think they just see a number on a uniform and think a guys back if he misses two months. It doesn't work that way. People just struggle to see that and understand that. It's the one thing I've appreciated. I know what they've been through. I know how hard it is. Can you imagine the pressure on my guys? How would you like to have Mateen Cleaves on a trip with you or Magic calling in or Steve Smith showing up last weekend or Draymond... you can only imagine his texts to those guys. He probably threatened them. I can only imagine the pressure those guys have been under. I get paid to take the pressure, but they don't and for the most part they have done a hell of a job. But, I told them then and I'll tell you now, that's what today's story is. Tomorrow's story is they're back to being the worst players that ever played here, the slowest and the weakest and everything else until we get done.


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