Izzo still has high hopes for Spartans

February, 5, 2009

Quick hitters for Thursday:

• Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said second-leading scorer Raymar Morgan started to feel ill against Illinois on Jan. 17.

Since then, Morgan has been diagnosed with a case of mono/walking pneumonia, according to Izzo, who shut Morgan down Wednesday and didn't play him in the win over Minnesota. It's unclear if Morgan can go Saturday against Indiana.

Morgan's production continued to go down after Jan. 14 when he scored 17 points in a win at Penn State. He played 31 minutes and scored eight points in the win over Illinois. He played 18 minutes and scored just one point in the loss to Northwestern. He went for 21 minutes, scoring four points in a win at Ohio State, and then played just eight minutes and scored two points in a win at Iowa. He could only muster three minutes in the loss to Penn State.

"He's still our best all-around player," Izzo said.

Morgan hasn't been practicing. The hope is that within a week or so -- around four weeks since the diagnosis -- he should be on the other side of the illness. But conditioning will be a factor, too.

"I'm hoping by March we can get the whole team together," Izzo said.

The Spartans have dealt with a number of injuries and illnesses with various setbacks for forwards Delvon Roe and Goran Suton.

The difference for the Spartans on Wednesday was their defense. Michigan State held Minnesota to 47 points, 3-of-12 3-point shooting and 15-of-52 (28.8 percent) overall. MSU also outrebounded the Gophers, 38-21.

"If we can get everyone back I still think we can be one of those teams (to go far in March)," Izzo said.

• Izzo said it took him days to get over the combined home losses to Northwestern and Penn State.

But just when he thought he had beat himself down enough, he watched the Penn State tape and kept seeing how far out the Nittany Lions were hitting shots last Sunday.

And for that moment, it eased the pain of losing. So when Izzo saw Minnesota coach Tubby Smith on Wednesday night, he sat with him on the bench and asked Smith if the Gophers planned on hitting deep shots.

"When you're on the floor, you don't realize how far out they're shooting from," Izzo said. "We guarded them. The Northwestern game we didn't play well (18 turnovers)."

Listen Friday to more of my interview with Izzo on the ESPNU College Basketball podcast.

• Wake Forest coach Dino Gaudio said Thursday he had feared two stretches of games in the preseason. He said he worried about the stretch of at BYU, North Carolina, at Boston College and Clemson. Wake won all four of those games. The second stretch was at Georgia Tech, at Miami, Boston College and at NC State. So far the Demon Deacons are 0-2 in this current stretch.

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Poor shooting (3-of-20 on 3s, Jeff Teague 0-for-5) and giving up 32 points to Jack McClinton were deciding factors in losing 79-52 Wednesday night at Miami.

The Demon Deacons are a much-improved basketball team from a year ago, both in development of players like Teague and James Johnson and the infusion of freshmen like Al-Farouq Aminu. But it's hard not to look at an eerily similar situation to last season. Wake beat Duke at home and then lost four straight games to essentially fall out of the postseason.

Wake beat Duke at home and has lost two straight to fall out of contention possibly for a No. 1 seed. The fall isn't as far, but it's still a post-Duke dip, nonetheless.

• Utah State, which hosts New Mexico State on Thursday as a ranked team, is well aware of its perilous spot in the top 25. USU coach Stew Morrill said Thursday his players were really excited about getting ranked this week and the staff embraces the sudden stamp of approval nationally. But he keeps reminding them that one loss can lead to a slide out of the rankings. Check Friday for more of my interview with Morrill on the ESPNU College Basketball podcast.

• Lost amid the wild Wednesday were a few other results: Boston College beat Virginia by 10 to move to 6-3 in the ACC, 18-6 overall. BC goes to Wake and hosts Clemson and Duke the next three games. Winning one of these three is crucial to the Eagles' NCAA chances.

• Utah took out TCU by eight to stay in stride with San Diego State atop the Mountain West.

• Illinois State beat Southern Illinois by three in overtime in Carbondale to go to 19-4 overall, 8-4 in the Missouri Valley, tied with Creighton and three games behind Northern Iowa.

• VMI beat Winthrop in overtime, 110-106, and continue to be one of the more exciting team to watch. VMI is the leader in the Big South and if it can win the league, the Keydets will be a tough first-round matchup.

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer



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