Newsflash: Tom Izzo is really, really good

March, 29, 2010
3/29/10
12:02
PM ET
Since we have just under a week until the Final Four is actually settled, we have plenty of time -- though, mercifully, it's not the interminable two weeks that leads up to the Super Bowl -- to chew up and spit out just about every single relevant tournament storyline imaginable. I'm actually going to do this later today, but for example: Butler's the hometown underdog, Duke is returning to the elite, WVU and Bob Huggins want to win one for the tortured basketball fans back home, and Michigan State is yet another Tom Izzo miracle. See? That was easy!

[+] EnlargeTom Izzo
Elsa/Getty ImagesTom Izzo's Spartans beat teams seeded 12th, fourth, ninth and sixth to get to the Final Four.
Everyone knows Tom Izzo is really, really good at getting his team to the Final Four. We get it. We said all this last year, and it still applies.

But sometimes it's worth having a closer statistical look at just how good Tom Izzo is, and that, thanks to Five Thirty Eight's Nate Silver, is where things start to get interesting again:
Meanwhile, Michigan State doesn't really have any bad misses. They failed to make the Final Four as a 4-seed in 1998 -- Izzo's first tournament -- but 4-seeds have only an 8 percent chance of doing so. They also missed as a 5-seed in 2008. Overall, however, a team with these seedings should only have made about two Final Fours -- 1.8, technically, if you don't mind the decimal -- and not the six that the Spartans have actually participated in.

A simple way to analyze how good Izzo has been is to add an 'Izzo' dummy variable to our logistic regression model. If we do that, it is highly statistically significant at a 99.99 percent certainty threshold (z = 3.63). Translation: it's very unlikely that the Spartans have just gotten lucky; Izzo has probably exhibited some real skill at captaining his team in the tournament.

OK, so I'm not exactly sure what a logic regression model actually does, but I'm less worried about the input, because I trust the output. And the output is simple: Tom Izzo is a freak. There's really no other way to put it.

Oh, and while we're here, it's worth noting that this Final Four extends Izzo's 13-year streak of never having coached a single upperclassman that didn't enjoy a Final Four appearance at least once during his time at Michigan State. And you wonder why Izzo recruits so well.

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