Tag Archives: Tom Izzo

Quick Hits: 1/06/10

Happy New Year.

Hope you all have enjoyed the holidays and all of the sporting events.

What a great time of the year.  The NFL is gearing up for the playoffs, college bowl season is fantastic, out-door hockey, and college basketball has started conference play.  Plus international soccer leagues are about to open transfer season and the NBA has been strong since the season started.

But let’s start with my favorite NFL Team – The Minnesota Vikings. Who are now taking the week off to rest before their match-up next weekend.

The Vikings beat-up a tired, ready-to-be-done New York Giants, 44-7.  Yes – we are back on track! I would be very careful about getting to comfortable with a win against a team that had a 0% chance of making the playoffs.

Let’s recap:

After the Vikings started 10-1 and gave a win away to the Steelers, they lost 3 of their last 5 games and really showed flaws – but we will not getting to that now.

Let’s look at their schedule.

  1. Of the thirteen different teams the Purple played in the year, only five had winning records. The Packers (11-5), Steelers and Ravens (9-7), Cardinals (10-6), and Bengals(10-6).
  2. Twelve wins were against teams with a combined record of 66-94, highlighted by wins against Green Bay (2 wins), Baltimore, Cincinnati, and two 8-8 teams in the 49ers and the Giants.
  3. Four losses to Arizona, Chicago (7-9), Carolina (8-8) and Pittsburgh with a combined record of 34-30.
  4. Total combined record of all opponents = 93-115*.

*Some of the numbers may look off – but I only used the records of conference opponents once.

I know you can only play the teams on your schedule, but there has to be more concern about a team that has played so inconsistently against poorer teams.  The Vikings have weapons all over the field – yet there now is an uncertainty that was not there in the first half of the year.

Losing E.J. Henderson was huge, Antoine Winfield missed a good deal fo the season, and Bernard Berrian is finally healthy.  Bryannt McKinnie is playing better of late, but was awful for a while.  The offensive line as a whole needs to give Brett Favre time.  Jared Allen looks like every other defensive end in the league, not like Allen who was an MVP candidate.  That falls on the defensive cordinator for not scheming enough to get Allen away from double and triple teams, because you know Allen’s motor is not problem.

We still have Favre, AP, Percy and Rice – the Sydney Edition – and very good defense.  Yet, I have this feeling that the Cowboys or Eagles are going to come to the Dome and blow it up.

The thought of the Vikings woes have not kept me up at night – I have a six-week-old baby girl to do that for me – but there has to be concern running through this organization.  Head Coach Brad Childress has never been in this situation – a first round bye.  A lot will be said about what kind of coach he really is with this much time to prepare.  Childress – prove you are worthy of the contract extension.  Because I don’t think you deserved it.

Best College Basketball Program Of The 2000’s

I started this around Christmas, and totally forgot about it.  But this decade has been quite the decade for College Basketball  powerhouses to reestablish themselves and new ones to appear.

So here the suspects: Michigan State (Champs in ’00), Duke(’01) UConn (’04), UNC (’05 and ’09), Florida (’06 and ’07), and Kansas(’08).  I did not include the ’02 Maryland and ’03 Syracuse – no real reason to explain.

And here are the Top Five.

Honorable Mention: UConn – The Huskies have been monsters in the Big East and had a great team in ’04.  But they were a George Mason run away from their second title of the decade in ’06.  Can you imagine that game Florida Vs. UConn?  Just to get to the Championship game.  So much NBA talent – head – going –  to – explode.

5.  Duke – Winning in 2001 with arguable the best team of the decade – Jason Williams, Shane Battier, Carlos Boozer, Mike Dunleavy, Nate James and Chris Duhon.  Had more wins in the 2000’s than any other program with 291, won 7 ACC Tourney Championships and four regular season Championships.  But played in only two Final Fours and came up very short later in the decade – by Duke standards.

4.  Florida – I know what you are thinking how can the only back-to-backers in the decade be 4th.  A couple of reasons.  The “What have you done for me lately” mentality kicks in hard since the last title.  Only won three SEC tourney championships, but only one outright SEC regular season championship and two co-championships.

3.  Kansas – Consistency kills.  From Roy Williams to Bill Self, the Jayhawks never slipped.  Never fell into the funk that Florida did.  One very good team with Kirk Hinrich, Nick Collison that played in two Final Fours and then one great team in the 2008 Jayhawks, led by Bradon Rush, Mario Chalmers, Sherron Collins, Darrel Arthur, and Darnell Jackson.  They also dominated the Big 12, like no other powerhouse dominated their conference with seven total regular season Championships.

2. Michigan State – One National Championship, four Final Four’s (with the ’99 Final Four, they made three appearances in a row.  Only other team to do that is UCLA in the last ten years).  Fall victim to the fact that they never dominated a conference that was very weak for most of the decade, winning only three regular season Championships and only one tourney crown in 2000.  The 2005 team is one of my favorite teams of the decade with Shannon Brown, Maurice Ager, and Drew Neitzel which beat Adam Morrison’s 43 points and Gonzaga in triple-overtime in the Maui Invitational.

1.  North Carolina – Two National Championships, four Final Fours, and probably has built the biggest and best recruiting/NBA pipeline ever.  UNC does not rebuild – they “reload”.  But then you have the Matt Doherty fail.  Doherty took the team from No. 1 in the country in his first season to 8-20 in his second to 17-15 in his third.  He had players, the same players the Williams won with in 2005.  We can not forget Tyler Hansbrough.  Without him, 2006 would have been difficult.  This program has returned to dominance and there is not end in sight.

Coach of the Decade Award – Tom Izzo.  Roy Williams would be a very close second, but Izzo just wins.  And like many of the top coaches, his passion is obvious.  Izzo has also become such a part of the community like that make the fans love him even more.

College Basketball Mini Hits

  • Evan Turner is expect to be back tonight against Indiana, earlier than first thought.  And all is right in the Buckeye nation.
  • No. 4 Purdue beat the Gophers pretty handily, 79-60.  The first half was close only because the Boilermakers could not shot the ball.  That changed in the second half.
  • No. 2 Texas was pushed by Arkansas 96-85.  Even with foul trouble, Damion James won the game with a couple big jump shots to seal the game. 
  • UNC lost to Charleston 79-82.  While it is big for Charleston, it is still early January.  Everything will be OK.  UNC will be just fine, they just need to get healthy.

Landon Donovan Has Arrived In England

The US Soccer golden boy is set to begin his 10-week loan with Everton which is a soccer club in the English Premier League.

“I am ready to enjoy it and I want to personally get myself sharp while I am here,” Donovan said Tuesday. “Tim Howard has had nothing but great things to say about this team so I am excited. Going into a World Cup year this experience will keep me sharp.”

The loan is great for Donovan as he has come into his own as a player.  With his showing with the US in the Confederations Cup and with the LA Galaxy, Donovan is looking to replace the issues he has had in Europe with a good spell with Everton.

This loan also increase the amount of attention surrounding the US National Team’s opening group stage match against England in South Africa this summer.  SideNote:  ESPN will be showing World Cup games in 3-D.  WHAT?

Donovan will need sometime to get back into shape, but this is a great situation for him.  Donovan is a very sensitive person, and his play fluctuates with his emotions.  So having Howard there is key.  A fellow American who has seen Donovan play to the best of his ability and can be there to give guidance if needed.

Click here for the entire article.

Carolina Vs. Michigan State

To set the right mood for this post, please imagine the guy with the crazy deep, resonant voice from the movie previews.  Now you can continue to read the following. 

Ford Field – music swells.

Two teams – spot lights on teams.

Two quests – cue video montage of highlights from season.

One Shining Moment. – Crowd roars – Cue music and explosions. 

Add own confetti for added flair and mess. 

Now we are all in the right state of mind to look at the last game of the 2008-09 Men’s College Basketball Season.  I will not “breakdown” these teams, we all know them well.  Instead, I will highlight a few aspects that could change the outcome or guarantee victory, or do neither.

1.  Pace – MSU has a more control tempo and chooses it’s spots to fast break.  While UNC throws it in fifth and punches the pedal the whole game putting the opposition in tough positions. 

2.  Rebounding – More specifically, offensive rebounding.

3.  The Referees – If the refs call it tight, the advantage goes to UNC.  If the refs let them play, Michigan State will have a chance.  Either way, I would rather see it called a little looser. 

4.  Raymar Morgan – Morgan must continue to be aggressive and affect play like he did against UConn, even if he is not scoring.Tom Izzo

5.  Coaching – Roy Willams is a great coach, but Tom Izzo is very Bill Belichick in his game planning. 

*Fashion conscious side-note– Izzo is a much better dresser than Belichick.

6.  Three point shooting – Both teams jack-up alot from distance.  MSU averages 15.2 shots from three a game and UNC 16.4.

7.  Share With The Other Kids – Out the six loses MSU has lost this season, five times their opponent had more assists.  

8.  Home Court Advantage – The game is in Detroit but UNC will not be scared.  It could give MSU a needed lift.

9.  Mascot – The Spartan carrys more fear and more of the “I’m going to kick your ass” factor than the Tar Heel.  I still have no clue what a Tar Heel really is.  I don’t think it is a ram.  Anyone? 

10.  Who I Want To Win – I would like to see Izzo and Michigan State complete this season “tie to legend”, with Bird and Magic in ’79.  Much like Kansas did last year with the anniversary of “Danny and the Miracles”. 

Even though I am an admitted Duke fan, I think I will feel a little bit of sympathy to UNC and the players that came back to win a championship and did not.  You rarely see that kind of dedication in the One and Done Era.  I have great respect for the talent of those players and for Williams. 

11.  UNC in Close Games – UNC has not won a tournament game by less than double-digits.  In the regular season, the Tar Heels had only ONE win that was fewer than eight points.  That was a 69-65 victory on the road at Miami in mid February.

Ty Lawson12.  Point and Counterpoint – Ty Lawson or Kalin Lucas.  Both players are the main reason their teams are still playing.  Who ever plays better, their team will win.  Speed vs. Speed. 

 13.  Bench Production – MSU’s bench score 28 points per game, UNC’s scores 13.2 but even fewer in closer games.  Izzo expects production from the bench no matter how close the game.

 14.  Foul Trouble – Obvious I think.

15.  Annoucer – There have been a ton of combo’s with ESPN and CBS, but for all the is holy, Gus Johnson needs to calls this game!  PLEASE!

That covers it, everything that could possibly shift this game to either side.  I mus say that this is the best breakdown/preview I have done, EVER.  So much in depth details and just filled with vital data.

Enjoy the game.

I almost forgot – Prediction:  UNC 74, MSU 81

Michigan State over UConn

MSU Over UConnraymar-morgan

I must give credit where credit is due.  First, to Raymar Morgan who played the type of game the Spartans needed to get by UConn.  Morgan played a total of thirty minutes and had 18 points, 9 rebounds and five steals.  He was able to contribute because he was aggressive, but managed to stay out of foul trouble.

Second, to Tom Izzo who did it again.  I don’t think be people are going to over look or underestimate him any more.  He always has his team prepared and playing their best basketball when the games count the most.

Michigan was aggressive on both ends of the court and UConn was not able to get many easy shots.  The Huskies back court players shot 8-for-29 from the field and struggle to get any offensive going until the last minutes of the game.

Three key stats tat tell the whole story.

  • Assist totals for the game. UConn: 8, MSU: 18.
  • Steal totals for the game.  UConn 5, MSU: 11.
  • While UConn went to the foul-line 33 times (13 more times then MSU), they only managed to shot 63.6%

It seemed as though UConn had forgot that they had a massive height advantage on the post and was content to force one-on-one action that rarely lead to a made field goal.kalin-lucas

Michigan State did not shot a great deal better, they did get most of their shots in half court sets or fast breaks.  The latter seemed to be surprising for Jim Calhoun’s team, I guess the expected a half court grind-fest instead of a track meet.

Even with Goran Suton not playing a great game, it was the type of game the Spartans needed to play to win the game, tough defense, strong rebounding, and Raymar Morgan finally played with a purpose.

I forgot to mention that Kalin Lucas is the man.

Moment of  Self Promotion:  My predited score was off only with the MSU score, and by only 4 points.  I was on target with UConn.

Final Four Preview: Michigan State vs. UConn

Before I get to the long awaited preview/breakdown of the Tom Izzo and Jim Calhoun cage match, just a couple quick hits.

  • First – Congrats to Joe Pa U as Penn State defeated Baylor to win the NIT Championship – nice to go out on a win, no matter what.
  • Second – What is going on in Arizona?  Is there some horrible smell that repels coaches?  Something is a little fishy.  That said, Tim Floyd is exactly where he needs to be at USC – aka OJ Mayo NBA Prep School.
  • Third – I will take any of the coaching openings anywhere in D1 – I will even pay for my own move.

Why UConn Will Win?Connecticut Seton Hall Basketball

The front court of Hasheem Thabeet, Stanley Robinson and Jeff Adrien (7’3″, 6’9″ and 6’7″) is taller, longer and stronger than the MSU bigs of Goran Suton, Delvon Roe, and Raymor Morgan (6’10”, 6’8″ and 6’8″).  The Huskies big man will need to add some scoring, but it ultimately comes down to Thabeet’s ability to change shots and keep the MSU guards out of the lane.

Kemba Walker had a break out game with 23 points on 7-for-9 from the floor and 9-for-10 from the foul line in 25 minutes against Missouri.  Craig Austrie and A.J. Price are the Huskies only real outside threats, but should be able to get their shots off over the smaller Spartan back court.

For UConn to win, they must win the battle on the block in scoring and not get out rebounded by a Spartans team that crashed the broads very hard.

Why MSU Will Win?

Early in the season, the Spartans were out of sink and struggled to regain their rhythm, and then the hit their stride about the time the Goran Suton returned to 100%.  In their win to get the Final Four, Suton had a double-double with 19 and 10, shooting 3-for-5 from deep and dishing out five assists carrying the team to Detroit.Michigan St Minnesota Basketball

Tom Izzo would love for Morgan to actually play some meaningful minutes, Morgan has been invisible since the first round match-up with Robert Morris.  He has only scored 23 points and 10 rebounds all tourney long and played only 10 foul-plagued minutes in the win over Louisville.  Roe has not been any better, he has scored only 16 points and grabbed three rebounds all tournament long.  He has not had a rebound in the last three games.

Even if Suton is the final piece to the Spartan puzzle, Kalin Lucas is still the most important player in green.  Much like Ty Lawson is to UNC, Lucas makes this team go.  If Lucas is able to catch fire and still get the ball to other talented shooters, MSU will win.

Deal Breaker:

The benches.  The Huskies only three, mostly two deep on their bench with Walker and forward Gavin Edwards.  The Spartans easily go four or five off the pine.  Expect to see major minutes from guards Chris Allen, Durrell Summers, and forward Draymond Green.  Michigan State has better talent coming off the bench.

Prediection

There are few coaches that prepare their teams better than Izzo (i.e. Louisville) and with a week to prepare, I am feel that Izzo has the team ready to play.  I have been doubting Michigan State all tourney and I  have a feeling that they are going to win just to spite me and my many brackets that I had them losing to USC.

Michigan State 78, UConn 73.