B1G Ten Ballin: The Hardwood Hustlers
In this week’s edition of Big Ten Ballin': The Hardwood Hustlers, Greg Mroz looks at how Tom Izzo has once again led Michigan State to the top of the Big Ten.
Volume 4: Izzoned
Is there a better coach in the Big Ten than Tom Izzo? Well, when you look at his body of work in comparison to other coaches, the answer is clearly no. When people think of the model of consistency, they look at the model that Izzo has set out in East Lansing, and while many can out recruit and out talent Izzo, none can outcoach him.
Take the game that pitted Michigan State against Michigan on Tuesday night. The Wolverines are more talented than the Spartans at every single guard position, and yet the Spartans still managed to beat Michigan, the fourth-ranked team in the nation, by 23 points. Since a 13 point loss to Minnesota in the conference opener, Michigan State has only lost one conference game, which was a 5 point loss at the hands of Indiana. How have the Spartans been so dominant? Give all of the credit to Izzo.
The Spartans do one thing better than most teams, and that is rebound. If you can’t rebound, you cannot win on the highest level, and Izzo has been known for coaching his teams to be extremely tough on the boards. In fact, during early season practices, he conducts what he calls his “War” drill, where players dress up in football pads and grab as many rebounds as they can without mercy. While Michigan State is ranked 63rd in the NCAA in rebounds per game, the toughness that Izzo’s players show on a nightly basis is what Big Ten basketball is all about. Izzo’s motto is simple. “Players play, tough players win.”
Izzo’s model for success has worked for a long time, and will continue to work because his teams always grind games out. Their statistics aren’t gaudy, but they win. Their players aren’t the highest ranked recruits, but they win. They don’t blow teams out, but they get the wins. At 21-4 overall and first place in the Big Ten, Izzo’s squad has a chance to win another Big Ten title, the 8th in his tenure. There is a reason this man is the longest tenured coach in the Big Ten, and if a game comes down to the wire between Michigan State and any other opponent, I’m taking Izzo’s team to win it. As long as Izzo is at the helm, Michigan State will be a favorite to win a Big Ten (and subsequently an NCAA) title.