Tom Izzo while leading #9 Michigan State to their 20th straight NCAA tournament, facing some new territory against a very tough #8 Miami Hurricane team!
East Lansing, MI
Tom Izzo’s record in March is EXEMPLARY. That is why while green and white may be his favorite colors, but orange (The color of his Hall of Fame coat) speaks to that success. Izzo’s 20th straight dance is the longest streak in the Big Ten Conference and third longest in the nation.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t new ground for his team. Izzo said moments ago about his young team that, “This is a new experience for a lot of people on our team. It’s not just our freshmen. When you look at Tum (Lourawls ‘Tum Tum’ Nairn Jr.) and Alvin (Ellis III) have played more than 15 career minutes in the NCAA Tournament. (Matt) McQuaid played like 14 last year. No one else has had any minutes and so it’s going to be kind of a new experience for everybody.”
So while Izzo’s cagers head to the big dance with a 19-14 record, they face a dangerous Hurricane team led by a great coach in Jim Larranaga. Izzo said of his Hurricane opponents that, “As far as Miami goes, it’s not the tallest team up front, even though they’re 6’10” the two guys up front. What their advantage is, they have 6’6”-6’7” wing guys that are long too so they’re long, athletic and aggressive. It’s the first thing they talk about is how hard they play. They’ve had wins over North Carolina and Duke. They’ve had a win at Virginia. They had a suspension so they had a guy miss three games. Ja’Quan (Newton) so that was one of their better, actually their point guard.”
The Miami team doesn’t have a deep bench and Izzo referenced that. “They’ve got an eight man rotation and it does include three freshmen. Both their leading scorer and rebounder are seniors. (Davon) Reed is a hell of a player, can do almost everything. He can put it on the floor, he’s good offensively, he’s good defensively, and he’s a good rebounder. At 6’7”-6’6” he can do a lot of things. (Kamari) Murphy at only 6’8” is very athletic. He’s long and is their best rebounder. They don’t average a ton of points, it’s not like a team where their guards are averaging 20-some points a game. What they have are a lot of guys averaging between 10 and 14-15 points a game. Freshman (Bruce) Brown is turning into a hell of a player for them. He is averaging 12 a game and he’s on a lot of lists. Murphy is a redshirt senior since he transferred; he was third leading vote-getter for ACC defensive player of the year. What they have is a very tough team, a very physical team, and a very athletic team.”
The Hurricanes tough defense doesn’t mean they are the most prolific offensive team, but that doesn’t mean they are inept. This is a good team and Izzo broke down them down in more detail. “They can shoot the ball, they control tempo. They controlled it against some of the best teams in the country. We’ve got more than our work cut out, but I’m also excited because it’s a chance to play a good team. We are going to have to play at our best and that’s what we are telling our players. I think for us to be successful we have to keep them out of the paint, they penetrate very well. I think we also have to shoot the ball like we have most of the year, not like we did in the last game. Our rebounding is going to be paramount. We are going to have to rebound, especially our wings. This is where you kind of miss an Eron Harris who could do some things stopping penetration and cutting people out, but we have enough to make up for it and are looking forward to it.”
Tom Izzo’s record is 46-18 (.716) all time in the NCAA Tournament. The Spartans all-time record in first round games of the NCAA tournament is 19-7 since the tournament expanded in 1985 to 64 teams.
The #9 Spartans and the #8 Hurricanes tip off at 9:20 PM on Friday in the Midwest Regional battle. The game will be played in Tulsa, OK at the BOK center and you can see it on TNT. This is only the second time in history that these two teams have met. The last time they met was November 28, 2012 when they met in Miami for the ACC vs. Big Ten challenge. The Hurricanes won that battle 67-59.