It's been easy to be impressed with Michigan State this season. Tom Izzo thinks the Spartans might be a bit too impressed with themselves.
The Spartans suffered a bit of a letdown Wednesday night, allowing an unheralded Central Connecticut State team to hang tough for an entire first half in East Lansing. The Blue Devils wouldn't go away until the second half, as Michigan State gradually asserted its superiority and eventually cruised to a 20-point win. In and of itself, the result is fine. But after the game, Izzo was downright furious, as The Grand Rapids Press's David Mayo reported:
Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo stood in front of the assembled media Wednesday night, waving a box score and suggesting those putting stock in statistics could "stick (it) where the sun doesn’t shine." [...] "It looks a lot more impressive than the game was," Izzo said. "Probably for the first time all year, I was disappointed in our focus and our effort, particularly with a couple players in the first (few) minutes."
[...] "When people -- fans, media, talk shows -- wonder why coaches don’t give too much credit, it’s usually because people can’t accept that and handle it," Izzo said. "Too much credit given, so now we’re back to dog eat dog."
First things first: I would not want to be a member of the Michigan State Spartans men's basketball team today. I can only imagine how awful Thursday's practice must have been.
That said, this might actually be a good thing for Izzo's team. At the very least, it will help snap them out of whatever funk they might have been in in that first half, whether that funk was due to self-satisfaction, lack of focus, bad practice habits, whatever. Needless to say, Izzo's team will get the message. More importantly, they seem to be the ones delivering it. Mayo reported that Michigan State -- led by vocal senior leader Draymond Green -- conducted a players-only meeting following the game. The meeting was "out of sight of the media, but close enough to earshot to hear Draymond Green’s elevated tone."
In other words, no one seemed happy with the way the Spartans played last night. And that's a good thing! The Spartans' problems were legion in 2010-11, but chief among them was a sense that Izzo's team didn't have the kind of leadership it needed to exceed the sum of its considerably talented parts. Often times it just looked, well, apathetic.
The 2011-12 season seems to have brought with it a whole new approach, one you can see both in anecdotes like this and in the Spartans' improvement on defense and the glass. At the very least, we know this much: Blasé home wins against middling opponents aren't going to fly. Izzo and Green are determined to see to that.