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March 15, 2012
Izzo Six Pack: 'an incredible season into a magical one'?
Tom Izzo quotes from his press conference on Thursday at Nationwide Arena, the site of Michigan State's second-round NCAA Tournament game against Long Island Brooklyn, which will be played at 9:20 p.m. on Friday:COLUMBUS, Ohio - The following is a Six Pack of the most interesting
1. On the steady progress made through the season, with few if any major ruts:
"I can honestly say that I think we made progress at least each and every week. If one game we didn't, by the end of that week we did it in another game.
And that's what's been special."
2. On Long Island University - Brooklyn:
"LIU is more than a formidable foe. I watched them against North Carolina last year and I have seen players like (Julian) Boyd and I have trouble saying - (Jamal) Olasewere, but those guys are the Player of the Year and Runner-Up Player of the Year, and (Jason) Brickman is a very, very good point guard.
"So we're doing something that you normally don't do with a 1-'16. You're playing a team that's won their league three times and been to the tournament before and played a team like North Carolina, so I know they're going to be ready to play."
3. Does this team remind you of your 2000 National Championship team?
"It's not as talented as my 2000 team, to be honest with you. It's a team that doesn't have as much margin for error as some that I've had. But it has the chemistry and camaraderie that I think makes teams special.
"I said it best last week: I'm sitting there getting ready for a 9:00 walk-through the night before a Ohio State game, and I'm writing stuff up and these guys walked into the ballroom where we had a court and they were down in the corner, just screwing around.
"And I told my one assistant they're acting like a bunch of four-year-olds. Isn't that great? And I think that kind of speaks volumes for what this team is. They're just a bunch of guys that get along, have a tremendous leader, and now we've become a better basketball team."
4. You said in October this would be "a fun team to watch." It turns out you were right. Why did you think that?
"That's a good question. I don't know. It's just something a coach sees. I love the freshmen we brought in. I loved every one of them. I thought that they were all great players, but I thought they could all do some things, they spent a lot of time together.
"I love seeing what Nix has done. We forget about Adreian. He was out more or less a lot of that first year with that shoulder where he couldn't do the things to get better, like a Russell Byrd has gone through this year.
"Rookies just don't regroup from injuries that are four-, five-, six-month injuries like veterans can, but I just saw glimpses of those things, and I really felt that Derrick Nix was going to keep the weight off this time.
RELATED: Izzo Podium Audio, March 15
"If I was being honest, did I think it would get to this point? Not really. I didn't think. I didn't think that we'd get all those parts together. But they've all kind of fit in.
"Brandon Wood was a great kid but had to learn how to do some things, started to get better. Just everybody added something. Brandan Kearney, a lot of people talked about us redshirting him. I even briefly thought about it. But he's giving us some big minutes in the last month. So just a collection of guys that I felt were going to work hard and got along well."
5.Draymond was named captain as a sophomore. Do you think he received resistance to lead from former players due to this youth?
"Well, I think you automatically do if you have great players ahead of you. If you've got one of those teams maybe like Kentucky, where there's freshmen and you can get a freshman or sophomore to be the leader because you don't have as many juniors and seniors, that's one thing. But when you have guys who have been in the program, been to Final Fours, I don't know if you've got resistance as much as sometimes he resisted using his authority, because he was the vocal guy.
"Since we lost Travis Walton, which was after his freshman year, he was the vocal guy. And I guess a little bit maybe he didn't step up or felt like he should step on someone else's toes. Which isn't really Draymond's MO; he doesn't mind stepping on anybody's toes. But I think it was a little bit of that, and I'm sure there was a little resistance. That's pretty normal on all athletic teams."
6. This is your 15th straight NCAA Tournament appearance. When you show up for the first round, do you ever think back to 1996 and '97 when you were fighting to get to this point?
"Often. Often. I think back - that's what's so great about it. I appreciate that it was a struggle, or I appreciate how exciting it was to be in that first time or preparing for Eastern Michigan and then Princeton. I remember it like it was yesterday.
"But it's been a heck of a run, a lot of good players and a lot of good assistants. But it's a run. We're in a society where it's what did you do for me today? So I can think about those when I'm done coaching, whatever years that is from now. I'll probably think about it more. But right now I'm just kind of setting my sights on seeing if we can win one more game, one more game, one more game, and if we can do that, we can make an incredible season into a magical one."