|Izzo pushes Michigan State program to elite status|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 24 March 2009 12:13|
The Michigan State coach tends to look a little haggard this time of year, with tired eyes, a weary smile and a no-frills green warmup suit reflecting the long hours he's working as his team advances deeper into the NCAA tournament.
And Izzo wouldn't have it any other way.
``I might look worse,'' Izzo said Tuesday with a sandpaper voice. ``I might feel worse. But as far as inside ... this is it. I don't live for opening day. I live for March and I love every minute of it.
``If I was looking good and feeling good - probably wouldn't be playing.''
Second-seeded Michigan State (28-6) faces No. 3 seed Kansas (27-7) in a Midwest region semifinal Friday in Indianapolis. The Spartans have been in the round of 16 eight times in the past 12 years, more appearances than any program in the nation except Duke.
th-seeded Robert Morris and No. 10 seed Southern California in the first and second rounds. The victories give Izzo a 28-10 record in the NCAA tournament, tied for the fifth-best winning percentage among active coaches.
Michigan State's 12-year NCAA tournament appearance streak is fourth longest in the nation behind only Arizona, Kansas and Duke. Izzo won the 2000 national title and has coached in four Final Fours, with a potential fifth trip now two victories away.
Not bad for the native of Michigan's rural Upper Peninsula, who labored as an assistant under Jud Heathcote for more than a decade before taking over the Spartan program before the 1995-96 season.
The 54-year-old Izzo is the longest-tenured coach in the Big Ten. He won his fifth regular season conference title this year.
The Spartans made the NIT in Izzo's first two seasons. It's been nothing but the NCAA tournament since.
Izzo's recipe for success? Hard work, exhaustive game preparation, a fiery demeanor and a disdain for contentment. It's no fluke that his teams almost always are among the national leaders in the statistics that reflect toughness - rebounding and defense - even when the offense is inconsistent.
Izzo takes a football-like approach to video study and game preparation that gets his assistants and players up to speed on opponents with the best in the nation.
d for what's going to happen,'' Izzo said. ``I guarantee you every player is going to say all the rocks have been turned over, all the stones have been flipped. We know what's going on. There will be no surprises. That's the only thing I can give to them. The rest of it, they have to give to me.''
Michigan State defeated Kansas 75-62 on Jan. 10 in East Lansing. But Izzo says his team realizes the young Jayhawks have improved dramatically since.
Center Cole Aldrich and guard Sherron Collins were significant contributors during last season's NCAA title run for Kansas. Several newcomers, including guard Tyshawn Taylor, have steadily improved over the course of this season.
Michigan State is led by Big Ten player of the year Kalin Lucas, a point guard averaging 14.6 points and 4.5 assists per game. But the Spartans have been getting key contributions from a host of players, including a career-high 18 points from defensive specialist Travis Walton in the win over USC.
The Michigan State-Kansas winner advances to play Sunday against No. 1 seed Louisville or No. 12 seed Arizona in the Midwest final.