Kissimmee, Fla. On the brink of a big game, at least by November standards, Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo used his postgame news conference in the wake of an 11-point victory against undersized Marquette to let his players know how little he thinks of their toughness.
He did that because that’s what coaches do.
“We have some guys that are soft, and that is a four-letter word at Michigan State and not a good one,” Izzo said.
Winning Big Ten basketball games requires playing a Big Ten brand of football. That’s the way Izzo always has looked at it, which is similar to how his opposite number in today’s Orlando Classic title game, Bill Self, views it.
Izzo doesn’t mind expressing his views on the different standards applied to coaching methods in today’s words.
“Well, I can’t blame the players, that’s illegal in this day and age,” Izzo said after the Marquette game. “Somebody let one of their guards turn the corner. I don’t know if it’s a spiritual person that flew in, I don’t know who it was. But they weren’t supposed to turn the corner. It’s better if I do it this way: It was my fault, it was bad game planning. Somebody must have mistook me when I said, ‘Don’t let them turn the corner.’ They must have thought I said, ‘Let them turn the corner.’ So that really bothered me, as you can tell, all game. It was just, I mean, they just did it one time after another after another.”
Michigan State’s colors are green and white, but Izzo views the world in blue-and-white terms.
“We’re not quite white-collar, but we sure as hell ain’t blue-collar,” Izzo said. “So we’re going to see if we can get back to blue-collar by Sunday.”
This will be the fourth meeting between Michigan State and Kansas, Izzo and Self, in the past six seasons. In winning the three previous games, the Spartans have held Kansas to scoring outputs of 62, 62 and 64 points.
Izzo, as to a large extent does Self, determines playing time based on defensive performance.
In the Marquette game, when skilled Spartans big man Matt Costello bit on a pump-fake, enabling his man to drive the baseline and dunk, no matter what happened until the next whistle blew, Costello was coming out of the game. Costello immediately hit a mid-range jumper, which did not equate to a get-out-of-jail-free card.
When Izzo’s upset with a player, he glares at him. When he’s really upset, he doesn’t even acknowledge his existence. He didn’t even look at Costello as the big man strolled to his spot on the bench.
It will get physical, but the secret to beating this Michigan State team is limiting its three-point shooting. The Spartans make 9.7 threes a game and shoot them with 43-percent accuracy. Kansas holds foes to 31 percent. Advantage Kansas in this potential bloodbath.