After a season ravished by injury and inexperience, Michigan State is beginning to play its best basketball of 2016-17, and their win over the 16th ranked Wisconsin Badgers on senior night Sunday might have been their biggest win so far. Hall of Famer Tom Izzo joined The Jim Rome Show on Tuesday and talked about their challenging season in East Lansing and why the win over the Badgers meant so much.
“We’ve just had some bizarre injuries, including our two 6’ 9” guys. We might be the smallest team in America, and then Eron Harris went down a couple weeks ago, a senior,” Izzo said. “I thought we played one of our best basketball games and Wisconsin has a very good team. They’ve been up and down a little bit lately, but it was a big win for us, and it was a sweet win and kind of keeps us alive, and that’s where you want to be at this time of year.”
Having relied on his freshman so much this season, Izzo has a whole new respect for the Kentucky Wildcats head coach who makes overall changes an annual tradition.
“I learned I had a better appreciation for John Calipari and what he does every year,” Izzo said. “We’re playing four freshman. I’ve started all four of them at one time, and there is a process to all this. My freshman aren’t quite the caliber his are in some cases, but it makes you appreciate that it’s in February, and you’re still doing fundamental work. It’s kind of been good for me though. I finally had to admit to everybody that I hadn’t been through it either. So when I talked to our players about that, it broke the ice and think now we’ve kind of rallied around each other together, and we’ve won what, four out of five, and we’re playing a lot better basketball.”
Izzo also talked about Michigan State’s most notable alum, Magic Johnson, and his new job as the President of Basketball Operations for the Los Angeles Lakers. Izzo believes the timing is just right for Johnson and the Lakers.
“I think he’s in the perfect place for that right now,” Izzo said. “I think he’s built companies, he’s done an unbelievable job in business, and yet, I think he’s gotten those companies to the point where, he wouldn’t commit to the Lakers, I think the Lakers and the Spartans are still his two favorite teams. There’s no way he would commit to them if he wasn’t ready to dive in.”
Knowing Johnson so well, Izzo chuckled at the rumor of the franchise hiring him as a consultant a few weeks back.
“I started laughing. I said you know, it’s just not his style if he goes in, he’s going in hook line and sinker,” Izzo said. “I’ll be shocked if he’s not successful. I just think he’s got a quality that few human beings have, he puts winning in front of everything. And oh, he’s struggled in a few things like everybody and everybody wants to point to that. I think he’s been successful at a lot more things than he’s struggled in, and I think it’s going to be great for the Lakers, and I know it’s great for us here at Michigan State, and I just enjoy watching what’s going to happen there. [I] think we all are going to learn a lot good lessons.”