One Last Chance to Make a Lasting Impression

Read the thoughts of Tom Izzo, Kelvin Torbert, Alan Anderson and Chris Hill as they and the rest of the Spartans prepare for the 2005 NCAA Tournament when you <I>Get Inside</I>.

Michigan State Head Coach Tom Izzo:

On his confidence in the team:

"If you look at the year, there is no question that we've had some missed opportunities. A lot of people have talked about our confidence and whether we lost some and cracked, or whether we've fallen down the stretch. One of the things we tried to do in our team meeting today was to eliminate those thoughts and to look at some of the good things that we've done.

"I'll be the first to tell you that I have lost confidence in some of our guys at times. I've lost confidence in their play in the time, but I have not lost confidence in their ability, and there is a big, big difference, there. If you lose confidence in how someone is playing, that's about what they are doing at the present. If you lose confidence in their ability, it means they don't have much of a chance to recover. We have had a chance to recover and we've done some great recovery work. At times, we've fallen a little short of our goals, but I heard Dick Vitale say that with a couple of bounces in the free throw this year, Duke could have been undefeated. Well, I could look you in the eye and tell you that with a couple of minor things on our end, we could be 26-2."

On the NCAA Tournament as a fresh start for the Spartans:

"Ron Mason (MSU Athletic Director) said it to me and I said it to our team, the Big Ten Tournament is still really part of the Big Ten season. Even though everyone says that you get your fresh start at the conference tournament, it's all the same teams and it's not really a new start. Now, we are looking at a new start. We are going to put the past behind us. We are still going to try to learn from (our mistakes) and we're going to realize some of the things that this senior class has done and that our team as a whole has done over the past four years. We played two of the four No. 1 seeds and got beaten by both, but our players feel that we can play with anybody. We're looking forward to playing Old Dominion. They are a very good basketball team, I know their coach and he's a Stanford product. Thank God for our incredible management staff; I think we already have 10 tapes of them already, so we'll get to work tonight. I told my players at the end of the meeting that we've all been through a lot. It's been the hardest year I've had, in a lot of ways, but for five days, they are going to get a staff that works harder than anyone in the country and I'm asking them to do the same. If we do that, I say we have a chance to make a run. So, let the games begin. We are looking forward to playing on Friday."

On the bracket as a whole:

"I haven't had a chance to look it over really closely yet, but there will be some good opponents. I know Syracuse is in there, if we can win we might meet them, maybe Duke somewhere down the road. It's so hard to look past that first game. I don't think it's any secret, so I'll bring it up now, the 5-12 upset is what it's called. That is probably the biggest upset of the NCAA Tournament every year for I don't know how many years. It's one of those superstitious things that I really don't believe in.

"When we get by our first game, we'll look forward to playing Syracuse or whoever else we play. We're just really going to have to take it one game at a time, which, for the most part, this team has done all year long. We know not to look past teams early and that's why we have won some games by decent margins, because we don't take any teams lightly. I hope that will be a strength of ours, going into the tournament."

On the Spartans' experience as an advantage entering the tournament:

"There is no question, over a four-year span, if there is a senior class in the United States that is more prepared for an NCAA Tournament than we are, I want you to name one. These guys have played everybody; they've played every place, they've played every style and hopefully, they can use that to their advantage."

On his awareness of Old Dominion as an opponent:

"You know, I saw them a couple of weeks ago and didn't give it a second thought, of course. This past weekend, when everybody was playing for conference championships, I never did see Old Dominion, but I'll see enough of them in the next few hours that I'll know what gum they chew."

On the Spartans' opportunity to prove themselves:

"It's an opportunity for us to prove something to ourselves. To be honest, we have played so much to prove something to everybody else and I'm really kind of tired of that, though I've been as big an advocate of that as anybody. I told them, it's not about proving the critics wrong, it's about proving us right. That's what I'd like to do for this team. We're still 22-6. We lost to one team that isn't in the NCAA Tournament. In addition to that, there are some incredible things that I've researched in the past couple of days that this team does deserve a lot of credit for what it has done in the past four years, or three or two, depending on how long each guy has been here. Now is our time to prove it to ourselves."

On the biggest challenge he has faced as a result of State's loss to Iowa in the conference tournament:

"As I've said, it's been the most emotional year I've ever participated in, for a number of reasons. As they say, the highs are high, the lows are low. The accomplishments and what you hope for some of these players who have done so much for the program, you want them to get something that they can hold and touch instead of just dream about and wish for. Yesterday was definitely, for me, one of the longest, hardest days that I've had at this job. I don't know if confused is the right word, I was just unsure. Thank God, Jud Heathcote called and left an unbelievable message that my family took down for me. Ron Mason came in today and, from my standpoint, you look to those people who have gone through it. I was disappointed. I felt like we played pretty good basketball the second half, we had some opportunities but it didn't work out. We exorcised those demons earlier when we went through the film. I spent a lot of time last night, talking to players and trying to figure out how we can get our confidence up, how we can tune out the outside world to realize what we have and haven't accomplished, so that we can deal with both and move on. That is what we did tonight."

On taking responsibility for losses:

"I always look inside first. I've always blamed me first, my staff second and the players third, in that order. But there have been times when I have felt that we've been as prepared as you can be and I've always stuck with those couple of quirky lines, like players play and tough players win, or players play the game. No matter what, we never get to make a shot or take a shot or step inside those damn lines. There have been times that I've wanted it so badly for them that I wish I could have traded the jersey for the stupid tie once in a while. I guess that's a little bit frustrating, but I think you have to keep perspective. If you look at the number of non-conference opponents that we've played compared to some of these top teams, it is unbelievable. That is good, but that also means there is going to be failure and we are not used to failure around here."

Michigan State senior Kelvin Torbert:

On how excited the team is to get back on the court:

"We are definitely ready to go. We are disappointed with the way that we played in the Big Ten Tournament and now we have a chance to go out there and really prove ourselves. So, I think that a lot of guys are pretty anxious to go out there and get this tournament started."

On Old Dominion:

"We know Old Dominion has a good record and that they are a pretty good team. We know that we are going to have to be ready to play, no matter who we play. It's one-and-done time, and everybody is going to bring their best ball out."

On whether or not Michigan State has what it takes to make it to the Final Four:

"I think so. We have to find a way to bring everything together and play the way we know we can play for 40 minutes. I think we can continue to play with anybody."

On how much he has reviewed the bracket as a whole:

"Some, a little bit. We know that we are right in there with Syracuse, Oklahoma and Kentucky and it's a pretty good bracket. We are going to have to come out and play, no matter what night it is and who we are playing. It will be a very difficult bracket to come out of."

On Michigan State's potential advantage, having already played against so many of the teams that are in the NCAA Tournament:

"We know a lot about those other teams. We've played a lot of them before, so we are accustomed to them, somewhat. Now, we just have to find a way to get past that first game."

On the senior class:

"It's really difficult, but you have to approach it knowing that you will never have a chance to do this again. This is an opportunity of a lifetime and we want to go out on top. Now, we just have to find a way to get everything on the right track so that, hopefully, we can come out on top."

Michigan State senior Alan Anderson:

Thoughts on MSU's No. 5 seed:

"I thought we'd be right around there. We're just happy to be in the tournament. It's one-and-done time; we're looking forward to it though. The post-season isn't over and we're ready to go."

On the NCAA Tournament as a second chance for the team:

"Yes, we've got to (look at it as a second chance). We can't fall back on everything that's happened. It's one-and-done time; we've just got to take it as that and get ready."

On the last couple of days:

"We've just been bonding together; it's not time to break up now. We lost a big game. We need each other, we need the coaches, the coaches need us, and we're just sticking with each other and enjoying it."

On the seniors mental approach to this year's NCAA Tournament:

"We know it's the last go around...it's kind of sad because you know it's the last time we'll be together around this time. But again, we're ready, we've been through it, we've got the experience - we're ready."

On the team's confidence and the mood of the team:

"I can just say that we're ready. We lost a tough game, but we're an experienced team and we're ready to go out to Massachusetts against Old Dominion and we're just going to take it from there. Right now, we can't look back on everything that's happened; we've been through a lot of stuff and we're still standing right now."

On the senior class' NCAA Tournament experience:

"We know how it feels to lose in the first round, and we don't want that. We know how it feels to be all the way in the Elite Eight and get there and not get to the Final Four, so now we want to know how it feels to get to the Final Four. We've still got to take it game-by-game with Old Dominion right now and just go from there."

Michigan State senior Chris Hill:

Overall team reaction on the No. 5 seed:

"I think excitement this year more than any other year, just with the feeling and anticipation looking forward to it. We're really excited."

Is the team excited because it's the highest seed you've had or because it's the seniors' last run at an NCAA title:

"I think more so because of what we feel we're capable of doing. At times, we've played very well this year and we feel like we're capable bringing that out and this is the best time to do it."

On the possibility of the No. 12 seed upsetting the No. 5 seed:

"Obviously when you look at the brackets you look at the 12 vs. 5 game as an upset game. Old Dominion, though we haven't looked at them yet, can be a very tough team, but we're going to be extremely ready to play and excited for it. You don't look past any game in the NCAA Tournament so that's all we're focused on right now."

On the team's tournament experience:

"We've kind of been through everything except going to a Final Four. We know how easy it is, and how fragile it is, the first game and how difficult it is to get by it. So we're going to do everything we can, and the coaches are going to do everything they can, to have us as prepared as possible to go out Friday night and just lay it on the line."

On the last couple days:

"It's been difficult, more so yesterday than today, just watching the games, especially in the Big Ten, knowing that we feel like we should still be playing. But we had some workouts today to get it out of us a little bit. Now we're just looking forward to the opportunity that we have."

Overall impression of the Austin Region:

"It's probably one of the strongest with those teams in it (Kentucky, Syracuse and Duke). I think all the regions are pretty even, and all we're worried about is the game that we have and that's Old Dominion."

On the disappointment in Chicago making the team hungrier:

"That's how we're going to try and use it. Maybe even more so, especially for us seniors, that this is our last chance and we're not really going to think about what happened then, but our opportunity to make a run."

On the thought that this year is the seniors' last chance to make a run:

"Every second that goes by is one second less of our college careers. These next five days are going to be spent with every extra minute we have we're going to do something that's going to give us an edge."


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