Posted on: October 18, 2009 4:42 pm
Edited on: October 19, 2009 12:11 am
I'm back home after a quick trip to Kansas , doing some reading and trying to catch up on what happened at some other Midnight Madness festivities. Seems a lot of places had record nights -- among them Michigan State.
The Breslin Center was filled to capacity with 14,759 fans.
That's the first sellout at MSU in Midnight Madness history.
Tom Izzo entered in an Indy car because the 2010 Final Four is in Indianapolis.
"I know what it's like to drive an Indy car," Izzo told the crowd. "I hope I know what it's like to play in Indianapolis."
Meantime, Clemson's Oliver Purnell rapelled from the top of Littlejohn Coliseum, Syracuse's Jim Boeheim drove a police car into the Carrier Dome (Was he looking for Eric Devendorf?), and Kentucky's John Calipari gave a 10-minute speech to 24,000 fans at Rupp Arena, and he delivered the following line: "Our history is rooted in our coaches: Rupp and Hall and Smith."
That's Adolph Rupp, Joe B. Hall and Tubby Smith.
Notably missing: Former UK coach Rick Pitino.
I'm certain it was not an oversight.
Anyway, a scan of the country showed there were many great events. But the neatest of all Madness ceremonies might've been at Memphis, where more than 18,000 fans filled FedExForum to celebrate a 32-year-old head coach and his eight healthy scholarship players who are unranked and enduring a period of NCAA probation. Understand, it is not normal for the Tigers to fill FedExForum for Memphis Madness. Even when Calipari was the coach, Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts were the stars, and the team was ranked No. 1 in CBSSports.com's preseason Top 25 (and one) , the building was not full for this event. But on Friday night the doors had to be closed and people were turned away, and I was enjoying a conversation with former Missouri State coach Barry Hinson -- now the director of external relations at Kansas -- when I got a text about the scene and shared the news.
"I'm so happy for Josh," Hinson said. "The fans were making a statement, weren't they?"
Absolutely, it was a statement.
It was a statement to Calipari and the nation, a statement from a city determined to convince itself (and the prospects in attendance) that it will move along fine despite a rough few months. Since the end of last season, the Tigers have lost their coach, recruiting class and 2008 Final Four banner. They also watched one recruit (Latavious Williams) not enroll to pursue a professional career overseas, and one player (Shawn Taggart) not return to pursue a professional career, well, who knows where?
Additionally, Angel Garcia tore his ACL in an offseason workout.
Memphis is not picked to win C-USA.
And yet more than 18,000 people still made the trip downtown to celebrate the past and the future, and it's worth noting that a five-minute montage shown on the video board featured pictures and clips of every relevant former player and coach ... except Calipari, who was omitted completely.
"It was a great statement by the city," Pastner said by phone. "I was blown away. It was unreal. And that's what's great about Memphis Basketball, and it's what I've tried to tell people. Memphis Basketball was good way before I was even born, and it's going to be good long after I'm gone. Memphis basketball is not about one individual or two individuals. It has a rich tradition, and the fans are really proud of the program, and they showed it [Friday] night."
Posted on: October 15, 2009 9:17 am
Edited on: October 15, 2009 9:19 am
Lots of basketball programs held Media Day on Wednesday, but I can't imagine any were quite like the one at Michigan State, if only because it featured Tom Izzo delivering a 26-minute opening statement.
Seriously, 26 minutes.
I just watched the whole thing.
And in addition to serving as a great study session on the Spartans -- I can now tell you everything you'd want to know about Korie Lucious -- it reminded me that Izzo doesn't mind breaking down his team for reporters in a way that's truly unique. He acknowledged the lofty expectations, but didn't shy away from them. He praised the consistency of his program, but talked about needing to do a better job in certain areas. He lauded most players, but questioned some aspects of nearly all of them -- including the leadership abilities of Kalin Lucas and Raymar Morgan.
To be clear, Izzo didn't say Lucas and Morgan can't lead; he just said he wasn't sure if they could lead, and that it was one of his concerns heading into the season, because it's difficult to accomplish much when your co-captains and widely recognized best players aren't leaders.
"Do we have the leadership?" Izzo asked himself. "Being able to lead yourself is one thing; being able to lead a group of people is another. And I don't say that negatively toward them. I just say that it is yet to be seen because it always takes place when adversity hits, which I'm sure it will hit a few times this year. So that is a big concern, our leadership."
Click this link to watch Izzo at Media Day.
Tons of good stuff in there.
Posted on: July 24, 2009 1:04 am
Edited on: July 24, 2009 1:06 am
LAS VEGAS -- I broke away from the 17-and-under events late Thursday to go see some younger prospects.
Mike Krzyzewski and Tom Izzo apparently had the same idea -- because both were at the Tarkanian Basketball Academy evaluating Class of 2011 prospects while the majority of other high-major coaches remained focused on the Class of 2010 at various facilities around town. To put this into context, you must understand that nearly every relevant 17-and-under game here in Las Vegas is attended by five or more college head coaches, and in some cases there could be 10 or 15 watching the same court. But at this 16-and-under event on this night there were four games simultaneously being played under the same roof, and the only head coaches I saw in the building were two of the biggest names in the sport.
Their presence created quite a buzz.
Krzyzewski was watching a team from Indiana led by Class of 2011 standouts Cody Zeller and Marshall Plumlee, and if those names sound familiar, they should. Zeller is the younger brother of Luke Zeller (played at Notre Dame) and Tyler Zeller (plays at North Carolina); Plumlee is the younger brother of Miles and Mason Plumlee, both of whom play at Duke. As for Izzo, he was sitting in the front row with assistant Mark Montgomery watching a team from Michigan featuring Trey McDonald, a 6-foot-9 forward in the Class of 2011.
It should be noted that Duke and Michigan State both already have three commitments from the Class of 2010.
In other words, Krzyzewski and Izzo can afford to look ahead.
Posted on: May 7, 2009 10:47 am
Edited on: May 7, 2009 10:50 am
All indications are that Tom Izzo's musical debut went well Wednesday night.
And he didn't flub a single line!
Honestly, that was Izzo's biggest fear when I talked to him earlier this week, that he'd forget a line and freeze. I touched on that in Wednesday's column . But the reviews are now in, and Izzo has received praise all around.
Here's a link to the story from the Detroit Free Press .
Check it out.
Posted on: April 22, 2009 11:51 pm
Edited on: April 23, 2009 10:20 am
Ever wanted to see Tom Izzo sing and dance?
If so, congratulations.
Because it's happening May 6 at the Wharton Center on the Michigan State campus.
Izzo, his wife (Lupe) and six accomplished Broadway performers are starring in Izzo Goes to Broadway , a 75-minute production described as "a mini-Broadway show telling the story of Coach Izzo's journey from high school to Michigan State to making it to the top on Broadway. The performance features music from several Broadway standards, including 42nd Street, Cats, Chicago, The Phantom of the Opera and A Chorus Line as sung by professional Broadway performers."
Obviously, this is all for charity.
The proceeds will benefit the American Cancer Society.
Tickets range from $55 to $150.
Posted on: April 5, 2009 1:20 am
DETROIT -- Perhaps a rematch between Barack Obama and John McCain can serve as the undercard.
Or how about Ivan Drago-Apollo Creed II?
Because those are the only things I can think of that were as lopsided as the first game between North Carolina and Michigan State, that 98-63 debacle here at Ford Field that had Tom Izzo wondering whether he was dumb for scheduling the made-for-TV event. When the horn sounded, the Spartans were 4-2 with an 18-point loss to Maryland and 35-point loss to North Carolina, and though many spent that December night suggesting the Tar Heels would return to Ford Field during the first weekend in April, how many of you really thought Michigan State would be the school playing them for the national title?
Rest assured, I didn't.
Hell, as recently as Saturday at noon I didn't think Michigan State would be playing them for the national title. But here I am, late Saturday (early Sunday, technically), writing about Monday's title game between UNC and MSU, and I couldn't be more excited despite that December blowout, because I don't think this game will be anything like that game.
Because Goran Suton is playing.
(He was hurt last time.)
And because 70,000-plus will be cheering for the Spartans.
(Only 25,267 attended that December game.)
And because this Michigan State team is better than that Michigan State team.
(It just is.)
Similar to Billy Donovan's first national championship team, Izzo has his Spartans playing well at the right time, playing their best down this stretch, and sometimes that's the key to this stuff. Of course, North Carolina is playing well right now, too. Awfully well, in fact. So it's possible Michigan State might just be out-manned Monday night, and Tyler Hansbrough will get the send-off most have long expected.
Or maybe not. Honestly, who knows? But either way, what I do know is that this city will be jumping for the next 48 hours, covered in green from Canada to Greektown, and the build-up to Monday night should be splendid.
With any luck, the actual game will be, too.
With Izzo on one sideline, I'd say it's more likely than not.
Posted on: March 28, 2009 7:18 pm
Edited on: March 29, 2009 12:03 pm
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- It's relatively slow on the Kentucky front, which could be a clue that Mitch Barnhart is in a holding pattern of sorts, waiting for somebody to finish his season, somebody like -- oh, I don't know -- Tom Izzo.
Could it be Izzo?
Of course, it could be.
But would Izzo take it?
Honestly, that question is a little tougher to answer, although I can tell you with a degree of certainty that folks who insist Izzo would never consider leaving Michigan State are wrong. He would absolutely consider it. What I'm less sure of is whether Izzo would be able to pull the trigger when the trigger needs to be pulled, or if he'd think about leaving, talk about leaving and genuinely want to leave before ultimately rejecting an offer because he simply can't do it.
Either way, know this: An industry source told me Saturday that Barnhart has identified "about six" coaches he believes could "handle" the job on and off the court, and that Izzo is absolutely one of those guys. The source added money won't be a problem, although it should be noted that money won't likely be what lures the next Kentucky coach to Kentucky because every legitimate candidate is already rich.
Posted on: February 3, 2009 6:56 pm
I'm not sure why, exactly, because I pretty much make my own schedule and go where I want. But for some reason I haven't made it to enough Big Ten games, which is why I'm looking forward to traveling Wednesday (provided there are no weather delays).
First up: No. 19 Minnesota at No. 13 Michigan State on Wednesday night.
Then: Penn State at Michigan on Thursday night.
That's not a bad double-dip.
And here are five questions I'm hoping to have answered by the time I return home Friday ...
1. Can Michigan State win without Raymar Morgan?
2. Can Michigan State win at home?
3. Is Minnesota really a threat to win the Big Ten?
4. Is Michigan capable of turning things around?
5. Is Penn State as close to making the NCAA tournament as I believe?