Analysis: If it ain't broke, don't fix it

After their second consecutive Big Ten loss, everyone is questioning the current state of MSU basketball, including head coach Tom Izzo. SpartansInsider.com beat writer, and former State News editor Ryan Wallace shares his insight on this issue, including comments from Izzo himself.

(East Lansing) – If it ain’t broke don’t try to fix it.

Everyone, and I mean everyone, is giving Tom Izzo and company advice as to how this team can return to its days of domination.

The Spartans (9-6 overall, 1-2 Big Ten) have been plagued with turnover problems, and more recently haven’t found success in the free-throw shooting department.

And let’s not forget that MSU fell out of both polls for the second consecutive season, and Tuesday’s loss to Purdue has given them an identical record with that school down in Ann Arbor.

With all this going on, it seems fans are quick to point out what’s wrong with the team and what MSU has to do to break out of funk.

While all these so-called fans seem to think they know exactly what to do to make this team unbeatable, let’s not forget that Izzo has won four Big Ten championship, one national championship and took his team’s to three straight Final Four’s. I think this guy knows what he’s doing.

"When you lose you know there’s always reasons that you should do other things," Izzo said on Monday. "Change your system, change your style, change this, change that. Well gosh seven guys went into the NBA with that style, you won four championships, been to three final fours, why would you want to change the style?

"Well you got different kind of kids. Well maybe there’s different kind of kids, but there’s usually only one way to win a championship, you have to play hard, you have to play good defense, you can’t be undisciplined and turn the ball over, you got to make your free shots, and those things don’t change. People are on dial-a-clue on that part, they just have no idea and that’s the way it is."

Izzo is 100 percent correct. Since the day he took over this program eight years ago, he has preached the importance of getting every single rebound, hustling after every single loose ball, beating the other team down the court, staying aggressive defensively and wearing down the other team with depth.

In the last four seasons, prior to this season, this formula has led to a record of 112-29. Not bad, huh? The Spartans this season are still a young bunch and remarkably there’s still a lot of season ahead of them.

MSU this season has not played at that level this year. The team is still active on the boards, the team still runs up and down the court and they’re still playing aggressive defense. But what Izzo has noticed is that his team isn’t digging out those loose balls and grinding their opponents into submission in the closing minutes of the game.

The Spartans are still playing 10, 11 guys every night, but the team isn’t able to finish off the teams like they used to. Izzo harkened back to the days when his teams took over the last five minutes and won numerous games.

His team hasn’t reached that level yet, and he knows how frustrated the fans and media are with this team, and there’s no doubt he is carry the burden.

"The only thing that’s frustrating about for me is I know I’ve been kind of fortunate, I went through it my first two years and then I had a five-year hiatus from it and yet I understand it. I really do," Izzo said.

"There won’t be a fan out there, they’ll write it differently, but there won’t be anyone that’s more frustrated then I would be. The bandwagon’s the bandwagon, that’s the way it is. It’s why we make the money we make, it’s why we have the jobs we have and it’s understandable."

Izzo is not a man who is just going to give up on the entire season. Izzo is not the kind of guy who will float half-hearted excuses about why his team is struggling.

He’ll tell you exactly what’s killing his team right now and then he’ll tell you what he’s going to do to turn the ship around. To me it’s the most enlightening thing a coach can do with such a young team.

Take into consideration that last season the Spartans finished 19-12 overall and just 10-6 in the Big Ten. The team showed promise at the end of the Big Ten season, reeling off five straight victories with a bulk of the minutes being played by three freshmen.

Going into this season, MSU was picked to be the top team in the conference. Right now is the team playing like it? No. But do they still have a chance to win the Big Ten? Absolutely.

Izzo has pinpointed the problems – turnovers and free-throw shooting. He has said that free-throw shooting is correctable and that turnovers come with being undisciplined. He doesn’t have answers as to why the team has struggled, but he continues to have faith in this team.

If you need more proof to see just how close this team is to getting over the hump, look no farther then the losses. The Spartans six losses this season are by a combined 34 points and most of those games came down to the last minute.

If any other coach was here at MSU, I think this statistic would just be a spin on something negative. Izzo knows his team has faltered and he knows these losses are going to help build this team.

"Those things are happening partially because of youth, partially because of the injuries and partially because we’re not doing the job," Izzo said. "And I’m trying to change perspective on all three, but in no way, shape or form am I questioning that we have a good team.

"We’re not always playing good and that falls on me. So when fans are disappointed in that, that’s rightfully so. I just want them all to know, they can dig their heads into those chat-boards and they can call in as much as they want, but they’re not going to be as disappointed as I am.

"This team is still growing and that bothers me more than it does you, but I think I have to be a little patient with that part of it. Understand they’re still growing, but there still should be demands put on them that there’s a right way and a wrong way to do things."

Tommy you keep doing, what you’ve been doing. And one other thing: Don’t fix this team, it’s not broken.

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