MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY BASKETBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
March 18, 2013Eastern Indiana Sports
COACH IZZO: Well, after looking at Valpo, which we did a lot last night, looking at the field, looking at the situation, how many games we played, what we've done against ranked teams, against teams we're going to have to face in this tournament, I look at it this way: I'm glad to be at the Palace. The Palace has been good to us. Not that it matters, but I think there's a comforting thought that at least we've won our share of games at the Palace over the years. I think that's going to be very important. I think the most important thing is Valpo is a very, very good team. They got a great shooter in Broekhoff. He is a big?time player. He's one of the leaders in three?point shooting in the country, one of the leading free throw shooters in the country. I think of all the things that concern me about them, they're well?coached, a legacy with his dad. They've won a lot of games, especially 16 of their last 18. When you look at that, that's scary. I think the number one issue we have with that this is a complete senior?ladened team with five starters, as I said last night, all seniors, two of them fifth?year seniors. Experience at the end of the line I think helps you play at a different level. So that's the bad news for us. The good news for us is I think our guys are excited to play. We had a little meeting last night, looked at a little film with them. I think they're going to be ready to play. We think we have to really stop their offense. They shoot 50 from the field, 40 from the three, 74 from the line. Efficient team, efficient offense. Trying to get a gauge on some teams they've played is a little harder, but at the same time they played some quality people on the road and lost a few of those games, but showed up, showed up big?time. I'll take questions you have instead of me telling you what I think.
Q. How much has how you prepare for these first two games changed over the years in terms of like the moment you find out who you're playing Sunday to the days leading up to the game? COACH IZZO: My first year, first couple years, I just worried about that one team and made sure my team worried about that one team. Now I make sure my team worries about the one team and I worry about the whole weekend ? at least my staff does. I think as you got better in the tournament, you realize winning the game, getting in is not where you have to parade anymore. Winning the game isn't where you have to parade anymore. So I stole stuff from other guys that have been successful and said, You've got to win the weekend. I got different staff preparing differently. Jordan Ott is working 24/7 to get all the stuff. Now we have a unique thing, too. We have a play?in game in our bracket. We won't do much on that play?in team until after Tuesday night. We won't prepare necessarily a lot different. What you do is if somebody in your bracket this weekend is pressing more, you might work on presses. If somebody is zoning more, you might work on a little more zone offense than you normally would. For the most part, for us, our practice sessions, it's going to be 98% on Valparaiso.
Q. I was talking to Branden this morning. Everyone talks about your success. I said, What do you do differently? He said, Absolutely nothing. You are as intense for the pre?season exhibitions as you are for the tournament. He thinks that's what makes you successful. Can you expound on that, please. COACH IZZO: Well, I'm hoping that's a big positive. I think I heard it last night on one of the shows I was watching when I finally got home. I think it was Jay Williams. Had said the advantage to playing tough teams, being at that high intensity level almost all the time, is that becomes part of your fiber, part of who you are, part of who your team is. I think that is what helps you. It's repetition. It's the same. I think if you try to be phoney or something different, it hurts you. So maybe I didn't realize that. But being a jerk, only got beat by Grand Valley was just as good as being a jerk when we got beat by Ohio State. So I'm consistent, I'm very consistent.
Q. Earlier this season, non?conference games, when you played teams that were smaller on the frontline, they seemed to jam up the middle. How do you prepare for a team that's smaller and quicker in the lane? COACH IZZO: That we are going to have to do, take advantage of what they give us, try to push on them what we want to get to. There's a little bit of both in there. It is a different team because they have a 4 man that at first I thought was like Thomas from Ohio State. But he puts it on the floor and moves a lot differently. Thomas doesn't do those things. This kid is actually more effective in that way, yet he scores and shoots it at a very high level. We're going to have to do some things defensively a little differently. And offensively, that's the part we're still looking at right now. How much they zone, how much they really trap. They do some definite trapping on the post. I'm sure they'll trap us. It's a pretty aggressive trap. Yet we played some teams that have done that, go back to a Boise. At least been there, done that before. We'll look and see how we did it. We're definitely going to have to play inside out. We're a better shooting team when we do, get to the free?throw line when we do.
Q. Some people call it like a matchup zone. Do you expect them to do that a lot? Can Adreian Payne chase Broekhoff a lot? COACH IZZO: Those are things that Adreian is going to have to do more in practice. What impressed me in the last game against Ohio State, they did bring Thomas off some doubles, and he actually did a great job. But it is harder, getting over ball screens, although they don't use Broekhoff as much, they bring him off of stagger screens and single screens, try to put him in different spots. They move him all over. That's going to be harder for him. But we also have Branden that can play 3 and 4. Might see some of that, too. He's not a guy that posts you up as much as he is moving around. So it's going to be a tougher matchup for AP but one AP can handle.
Q. (No microphone.) COACH IZZO: It's funny, I think every year everybody is going to zone us. Every time someone zones us, we've picked it apart. We've had very little problem against zones, sometimes with not as good a shooting team. We haven't been zoned that much. I would expect we would some. But I'm going to have to watch more film, meaning more numbers of games to see who they did it against, who they didn't do it against. I don't think when you're them you're going to change up either. They just won 16 out of 18 games. It's not like they don't know how to play. Their system has worked pretty good for them.
Q. You've talked a lot about having the pieces to do something with this group and also equally the questions about leadership and focus. How difficult is it to have the pieces and how much would that make not making a run sort of a shame for this group? COACH IZZO: Well, it's like this year. We had the pieces, but other teams have pieces, too. There are some other good teams out there. We've talked a lot about our pieces have been a little bit mixed up for various reasons. Dawson, Trice, Gary Harris is a big one. Him and Dawson are probably the biggest two. But that plays a part in it, too. So disappointing? I think we're good enough to make a run. There's good enough teams to beat under the circumstances. We're exactly what I said all year. We're I think a pretty good team and maybe a great team if we get more than two guys to play well at the same time. We struggled to do that for a variety of reasons, some our own self?inflicted and some that we don't have control of. I'm always disappointed if we don't make a good run in the tournament. I think this team is good enough to make a good run in the tournament. I think last year's team was. I was disappointed in the loss we had then. I think we've got a similar team than last year. Last year we became a 1 seed because we won the tournament. The way everything worked out, I didn't think so going in, but we might have been close to a 1 seed if we would have won it, definitely one of the highest 2 seeds. We're in a similar position we were in last year. We got a similar team that we didn't just beat anybody by out?talenting them. I think if we were totally healthy with Dawson and Harris, we are more talented than last year's team. But we're not in that position and we don't have the leader with Dede. We have some pluses on one side and some minuses on the other. I will be disappointed if we don't make a run, I really will.
Q. You've talked about the different styles of play you've gone against. Does this style of play Valpo has compare to anyone else you've seen? COACH IZZO: There's a potential for that. Yesterday, I don't know if any of you watched the Ohio State game, but they played Thomas at center a lot of the time in the last 10 minutes of that game. You got to do what you got to do, whatever works. As many problems we have on one side, they're going to have problems on the other side. I said a Boise team, very well?coached, a team that can shoot the ball. This one is a little different, that they probably have a point guard, and their point guard was good, but this one is more of penetrating point guard, that was more of a scoring point guard. So I'm sure there's other teams as I go through it. But as far as individual players, this creates the same issues as a Michigan would or an Indiana would with a guy at the 4 that can score, that can shoot it, that can go a little bit inside, outside. We've played when White plays at the 4 for Iowa. We've done that. I don't know if it's that much different. I just think they have experience. Boy, we've not played against anybody that's started five seniors ever that I can remember. This is unique.
Q. With all the parity we talk about in college basketball, does that change at all how many teams you think can make the Final Four and what it takes to get there? There aren't those unbelievable power teams standing in the way, yet there's so many teams that think they did get there. Does that change expectations of getting to the Final Four? COACH IZZO: Not for our fans I don't think it does. I think realistically this year you could look at the glass half full or half empty. You could say we have just as good a chance as anybody and I believe you, yet there's more land mines because everybody is pretty similar. If there's ever a time, when you talk about this tournament, I try to preach from day one, even when we go through that gauntlet of things of five or six games in a row, to get to a Final Four, you have to be pretty peak all four games now. Definitely three out of the four you got to be, but probably all four now the way it's changed. You know and I know the disadvantage of being a 1 seed right now. There's going to be a 6 team that beats a 1. It's just going to happen. I think there's almost going to be pressure on that now. I think in all honesty that there are a lot of teams that could get there this year. I really do believe that. I do think, you know, we're one of, but I can think of six other Big Ten teams that can. That's the scary part. I can think of five or six Big East schools that could legitimately get there. Yet you look at how crazy it was. Miami was a lock 1. They end up at 2. Duke was working their way into a lock 1. They end up a 2. Ohio State maybe was a 3. They end up a 2. Everybody's bunched in there. We've played, what, 11 I think it was of the top five seeds, 11 games against those teams. We're going to be prepared for just about anybody. The matchups do become an issue, though. You could have played the world, certain teams might match up a little different than others. We're going to play against all the seniors and a 4 man that can really do some things. If you win that game, who knows who you play. If the brackets went the same, you're going to play against a Memphis team who is as athletic as all get out, a completely different kind of team. That's why I hope the experience we had in Big Ten and non?conference helps us as we hopefully work our way through the tournament.
Q. Big Ten this year more than ever, do you think there's pressure on Big Ten teams proving in the tournament what they proved in the regular season? COACH IZZO: My man Charles Barkley, he ripped us. He said that the Mountain West. I had a message to Steve Smith to ask Charles where Auburn is in this tournament. You know, there is because everybody's going to put on it. If you fail, you're league's not as good. I said this a hundred times and I believe it. The Big Ten/ACC challenge, doesn't mean somebody has a better shot at going to the Final Four. Whoever wins that, it all comes down to matchups. Yeah, I think there's pressure on us. I think the one thing we've done this year, we've kind of answered the bell from the beginning of the year when we were picked there till the end. You look at Indiana, Michigan most of the year. You look at us and Ohio State. Two of those teams stayed in that top five, six, seven. Two of us stayed in the top 13. We weren't just a flash in the pan. We all stayed there. The league in general I think stayed there. One or two teams went a little up, one or two teams went a little down. There were six or seven teams that stayed pretty solid all year round. Yeah, that's going to bring some pressure. That's why I'm hoping we get more than one team to a Final Four.
Q. In your quest to win another title, how much does it help that you have support from guys like Magic and Mateen and your bosses? How much does that help you year to year do your job, chase that? COACH IZZO: Chase that dream, yeah. You know, it helps a lot. Steve was on last night. Mateen was on CBS last night. Charlie was here for the selection. I talked to Earvin's brother a couple days ago. All those things mean the world to me. It means there's excitement. It means we've sustained something for 16 straight years. When you look at it, compared to some other programs, that is something that I'm proud of and I think those guys are proud of. Those guys helped build it. We're just continuing to build onto it. But the foundation they built, the rest of it we're going to try to keep holding on. Mark Hollis, Joe Ferguson, when you got your board, your president, your AD, your former players, for a coach, doesn't get any better than that. It makes it not only you feel good about trying to accomplish, for me it makes you want to accomplish it even more so they can share in it.
Q. The parity thing. When you coaches say, as you said last night, the toughest thing is to win the first game in the first round, what the heck does that mean? How is that harder than winning in the Sweet 16, the Elite 8 and Final Four? COACH IZZO: They asked Dokic a good question this morning. I got up with my kid to watch the top 10 plays. Mike Golic was on. He asked that question to the coaches, but he asked it to Danny, who played. He said, What happens when you come there? He said they played Robert Morris one year. He said, I went to a camp there one year, I didn't know they had a team. Incredible social media that tells everybody everything. It's so much more enlightening now than it used to be. The truth of it is players are players. They're no different than when you guys were young, when I was young. It will probably never change, you know, when you hear Duke and Carolina and Kentucky. There's one thing. When you hear teams down here, there's another. In some ways there's an advantage to playing Valpo. They know they've been a good program. But I think that's normal. And when people try to downplay that, I think that's coach speak, too. I think it is a factor. That's what I think makes the game so hard. If you don't totally respect your opponents, then you better be talented yourself. I don't know if any of us are as talented as that anymore just the way the parity has gone.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about what Detroit and the Detroit area has meant to your program over the last 15 years. There's a lot of history and ties there. COACH IZZO: Well, I always think of Steve Smith when I think of that, my first recruit as an assistant when I was working for Judd. That was my goal when I was a GA here. I saw so many great players leaving or going to other schools. That was one of the things I wanted to try to do as an assistant. It was important to put a fence around your own state. There were so many players in Detroit, Flint, Saginaw. But the Final Four in Detroit or the regionals in Detroit was maybe the one time in my career I felt like, Wow, we've arrived. That was in 2000 when we played Syracuse and Iowa State. Just the support. I laugh to this day, but I remember riding by gas stations that had things on there, and I just hadn't seen that in our state much for Michigan State basketball. That was big. And the Final Four was just a setting of all settings. The Kentucky game down there was fun and everything. But the Final Four, the way the whole state embraced us, Detroit. I still remember all the police officers asking if they could come to practice. I had a whole section of closed practice that was just police officers from Detroit. Turned out that made our guys a little nervous (laughter). Other than that, it was awesome. I have been appreciative. I think they embody what I believe in: blue?collar, hard?working, factory?type. I can't think of a better place to have this at than us as far as that first round, to think that us and Michigan are going to be there for the state of Michigan. Hopefully they'll embrace it like I think they will. It's another way to put our best foot forward as a city and hopefully keep building on what we're trying to do down there, and that's to get things straightened out the way they should be.
Q. You played in some games at the Palace since 2000. When you walk back in there on Wednesday, it's a NCAA setting. How many memories will be coming back to you from Syracuse and Iowa State? COACH IZZO: Hard to say until you get back in there. I know for Charlie and Mateen last night, that's all they could talk about. I definitely told many of you that it's still for me, I mean, that weekend was better than the Final Four, the national championship, to me, just because there were so many different things. Being embraced by our own state, getting to do it. The Pistons were so good back then. There are just so many reasons that were kind of cool. Our families, 90% of our team was from this state. And the way the games went. We didn't play great in either game, especially early. We were down both games at halftime and there were those exciting comebacks. It was scripted for Hollywood in a way. I still remember winning that thing. Who was there? Cedric, Earvin. I remember Mateen throwing that ball into the stands. Thank God he threw it to two guys that could catch it. Made me realize that Mateen could still play football, pretty long throw. You kind of remember all those things. They were great memories. Unfortunately, they're only memories. They don't help us win this game. They help me feel good. Believe it or not, Gary Harris was five years old then. I don't know if the players remember it as much as the coaches do. For me, those are memories that will never leave me because those are two or three of the top memories of my coaching career here.
Q. Scoring droughts have been a problem. Have you diagnosed the problems during those droughts? COACH IZZO: I think some of it's been turnovers sometimes. I think some of it's been our lack of getting the ball inside, how we go in there, how we don't go in there. Some of it's been Gary is up and down a little bit just because of some injuries and that. I think there's been a combination of reasons, but none that I can really put my foot on to say we got to correct this. The turnover one would be the big one. Seems like turnovers come in threes sometimes. We turn it over once, we have one, then all of a sudden we have three in a row. Shot selection wouldn't be one of them to me. I'm sure we've taken bad shots here or there, but not a ton. One thing I've been impressed with this team, they don't do that.
Q. Are you convinced this team hasn't played its best basketball? What is the potential for finding the next gear in this short span? COACH IZZO: That's a good question. I'm definitely convinced this team hasn't played their best collective basketball. I definitely believe that. I think against Michigan, a couple of those games, we played it maybe on one end of the court. I just think now that Payne is playing better, I think we have Appling back on track where he's pushing the ball, doing some things there. Harris I think will play well. Nix comes off a 17?9 day. I think there's a potential for that. We probably aren't flicking the switch and making it something completely different. We've been a team that's had to grind it out. When I listen to other coaches talk, it's so funny to hear what each fan base thinks. Everybody has the same ideas, and every coach is thinking the same thing. We talk about wins and losses, skids you go through. I mean, we talk how well Kansas is playing. They lost to TCU. Might be the biggest lost. They lost three in a row I think. Louisville definitely did. Everybody's had their blowouts. Scoring has been down across the country.
Q. One thing that's different from 2000 with the pod system, rivals can play in the same place. Do you think it will be kind of neat that Michigan fans will be rooting for Valpo? COACH IZZO: I get torn as always. This is one of those years, again, too, I am pulling for the Big Ten a lot. I really am. So I hope everybody worries more about their team. They got to have fun doing that. Somebody has to boo against us. We got to do that against them. They have the right to do that. I think right now what our conference has done is going to help all of us in recruiting, too. I think it's going to help our conference. I think right now the more people we can get to keep advancing, the better it's going to be. It is unique. I don't remember this happening except in the Final Four with Illinois. It was just the opposite. I think our fans were awesome to them and their fans were awesome to us. I'm not expecting the same, and understand why. It's a little earlier in the tournament. But it will be unique. The pod system has brought that a little bit.
Q. Yesterday you mentioned 90% going to the Palace was good. With the families there, distractions, how do you manage that? How big of a concern is that for you? COACH IZZO: I have to throw my social media into most conversations. Yesterday I was on a radio show with John Thompson and bill Raftery, who I think is doing our game. I mentioned to John Thompson that I often talk about how he did things, sequestering his team. I think it was the championship game at Kentucky. They were almost late because they stayed in Louisville instead of Lexington. I kind of admired some things about it. I told them, I'll tell you what, with the new social media, you can't hide and sequester them as much. I was trying to make a joke, get serious. I didn't get the last word out of my mouth and he said, You want to bet? I was scared standing on the other end of the phone. I said, No, no, sorry, I don't want to bet. But there are those distractions. They do happen. It is a little different. He used to take guys, put them in hotel. Girlfriends, families, this and that. Now we got two?handed texters and tweeters. We have the double barrel. It just really is a situation where you don't get to do that as much. You got to rely on your guys, talk to them about it. I gave them the lecture last night, I'll give it to them again tonight and tomorrow. But it is one thing, they will be around the hotel. They will be in the area. If there's a negative, that's the negative. But I think the positives really outweigh the negatives.
Q. Keith, how important is he going to be? COACH IZZO: He's going to get called out more and more because he's a year older. You're right, the point guard, the quarterback, is always going to be the one if you win, it would have been because of his shooting. If you lose, it's his floor game. You have to find a reason. That includes us. That's not a knock to anybody. That's part of it. It's just like as a coach, you know, I hear so many things that I wish I could let some of the people ? not you guys ? but some of the people that call or write, email, I mean, they must have just got done coaching the Lakers because they got every answer to every problem. Keith has to be careful of that. He's got to deal with it. I think I used the word last night to my team, maybe this sums up what I think about modern day sports, how you better trust us, the people in this room. I gave them the old heaven forbid anybody's parents got cancer, you better get them to somebody who knows what they're doing. If they have a heart attack, you better get them to somebody that's going to treat and fix them. Why would you go to somebody on the street? This day and age, we'll be tweeting you can fix a heart attack and do it at home. That's the way it is. It's not funny. It's the way our poor kids are brought up. My thing last night is trust the people in this room, trust the coaches, trust your players. In all honesty, don't trust anybody else right now for this one, two or three weeks because everybody gets emotional. Parents get emotional. Girlfriends get emotional. Buddies get emotional. Everybody gets emotional at this time, has all the answers. You could watch 65 different shows and there's 72 different answers. Some guys are giving two. That's just the way it is. I think that's part of our job now, is making sure that they focus in the best they can at the task at hand and don't worry about all the other things. Easier said than done. But that will be what I preach every night after every practice and try to keep them here more than normal. Keith Appling is going to have to deal with the position he plays. Everybody is going to be in the same boat on that. Everybody's got to have answers and questions for the quarterback, including the coaches. That's just part of what you sign up for.
Q. (No microphone.) COACH IZZO: Yeah, I think it helped him. I think he's human. He looked comfortable shooting the ball. He worked on it extremely hard the last couple weeks. So I think that's another thing I brought up. Who has worked the hardest on this? Who has worked the hardest on that? Have you worked on your free throws? Have you worked on whatever? Whoever it is. It's fun to see a guy work a little harder on something and have some success. Sure, he feels better. That's what it's all about. This day and age confidence is so important because they're getting ripped by so many people, access to it so easy, that it's an issue that we all got to deal with.
Q. (No microphone.) COACH IZZO: Oh, man. That was the first time I went as a fan. The last time was probably '82. I went to a Final Four. I never really went to any other tournaments. A little hard to get there from where I was. There were no flights. We had a lot of different issues that you had to deal with. Honestly, the last time I went to the Final Four, '79 was my first one. I think I went to a couple in the '80s. I do think I did that. The first one was when I was the biggest fan just because Michigan State was in it, even though I didn't know what that would bring later on. I sat about six rows up with my head coach's second ticket. I'm not sure I want to go as a fan right now. I've done a little TV in the off times and that. But once you're with your team, I think you're just so looking forward to playing longer. When you get done playing, you almost don't want to go to the games. That's for down the road 10 years where I can go and enjoy them or before I started. Other than that now, you look at it a little differently.
Q. Do you buy the idea that on paper going into the tournament this might be your best chance to win the thing since maybe even '01? COACH IZZO: I thought actually Louisville was the team in '10. Kansas was good, but they were a 3 seed, right?
Q. (No microphone.) COACH IZZO: Seems like we're always playing the No.1 somewhere in our bracket. I thought our best chance to win it of all of them was in '10, but not at the beginning. When we got there, even though we were beat up, I just didn't think it was as good a one. One of the rare times, in fact. Boy, I don't know how I can look at the teams that I see in our bracket alone and feel you have a good chance. But I'm not sure I felt that way when we did play Kansas and Louisville. I'm not sure when we played Duke and Kentucky. What I want to do is win this weekend. If we win this weekend, then I think we have just as good a chance as anybody even though the competition gets tougher because we've been through it, we've been there, we know what we're doing as a staff. I think it becomes a coin flip and it becomes matchups. Be good enough to get to the Sweet 16, then be lucky enough to move on, lucky and good. I don't know. I've never really looked at it like you're asking me. I just look at those first two games. The last 10 years before that I just looked at the first game, Please let us get in, please let us win a game. That's changed a little bit. I didn't really look at the bracket all the way. If you listen to any of the people that I got a chance to listen to in the wee hours of the morning before I went to bed, this is by far, by far, by far the toughest region. I don't think anybody's disputed that that I've heard. What does that mean? I don't know. I really didn't look at the West. I knew Gonzaga and Ohio State. I don't know as much about Arizona. Everybody tells me New Mexico is really good. I really don't know that, not having seen that. At least you guys got easy travel, same as me. Hopefully it will bring something. Thank you.