GREENVILLE, S.C. – When Tom Izzo saw Michigan State included on the 2022 NCAA Tournament bracket, it had been three years since he won his his most recent March Madness game. Only the slightest portion of that drought was anywhere near his responsibility.
COVID-19 erased a 2020 NCAA Tournament in which his Michigan State Spartans, as Big Ten Conference co-champions, were certain to be prominently seeded. The pandemic’s persistence impacted everyone through the subsequent season, although MSU’s inability to excel was mostly its own fault.
That last March victory was something, though. Against a No. 1 seed Duke team that featured one of the most dominant college basketball players in decades, in the latest duel between Hall of Fame coaches that tilted brutally toward Mike Krzyzewski, the Spartans “held” Zion Williamson to 24 points and 14 rebounds, suppressed the Devils’ attemp Duke Blue Devils clothes t at a game-winning shot in the final seconds and escaped into th Fairleigh Dickinson Florham Devils Jerseys e Final Four with a 68-67 victory. Izzo got to live with that result longer than perhaps any in nearly three decades in charge of the Spartans.
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“Yeah, it did sit there for two years. That was kind of, maybe, the only good thing about COVID, come to think of it,” Izzo told Sporting News. “But I still think that every time we play, there is a respect amongst the program and definitely by the coaches.
“I didn’t go home and celebrate. I mean, I said: We beat them in a game that really mattered. When you’re going to the Final Four, those games really matter.”
This latest confrontation between Izzo and Krzyzewski will be the last. It will not be as consequential as the majority of their March meetings, and yet it will be the most celebrated of all. Krzyzewski will retire after he either wins the 2022 NCAA championship or loses along the way, and that could come as early as Sunday evening.
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That these two gentlemen so often have had to put aside their friendship and mutual admiration has been, when you get to the core of it, their own damn fault. Izzo did not create Michigan State basketball, but he elevated it to a level of consistent success the Spartans never had know. Duke was good before Krzyzewski was hired, but he made the Blue Devils the standard by which all college programs are judged.
When you’re this good for this long, when your sport’s championship is decided by a comprehensive tournament rather than an exclusive invitational, it would be more of an accident if you didn’t bump into one another occasionally.
Sunday’s game will be the fourth NCAA Tournament meeting since 2013, the first to come earlier than the Sweet 16. Also, there have been every-third-year meetings in the season-opening Champions Classic, and periodic collisions – such as in the 2020-21 season – in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Those are made-for-TV matchups, so it stan Antelope Valley College clothes ds to reason ESPN would want the Spartans and Devils to meet as often as possible. They’ve met in each of the last six years, odd given that MSU is in the Big Ten and Duke in the ACC.
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“I said you can be friends, but for 40 minutes, you’re not,” Izzo said. “The game is bigger than normal … It’s kind of hard for me to prepare. Everybody’s saying: Are you going to end his career on this note? Are you going to do this? Are you going to do that?
“First of all, I’m not going to do any of that. The players will hopefully find a way to win. But just think what he’s going through and his players are going through. Emotionally, it’s got to be incredible. I can’t even imagine.”
Krzyzewski acknowledged it was a long night for him and his staff after the Devils’ comfortable first-round victory over CSU Fullerton. Michigan State is a challenge to scout because Izzo’s nine-man rotation includes no one scoring more than 11.4 points per game, so no obvious first option, but plenty who can produce a big night on a single occasion. Forward Joey Hauser rang up 27 points in Friday’s victory over Davidson; it was the sixth consecutive game with a different Spartan leadi Notre Dame vs. USC Rivalry Shirts ng the team.
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“We try to look at what you’ve done more in the last three or four games because, especially in college, kids change and teams change,” Krzyzewski said. “They pretty much have eight kids who started, and when they are in the game, they think they’re starters. I think that’s one of their biggest strengths.”
The change Krzyzewski made for Friday’s game was to start Jeremy Roach at point guard for the first time since Feb. 12. He acknowledged things had not gone well at the position with fullback-sized Trevor Keels there, at both ends of the court.
“Sometimes you start another shortstop. Just it’s a long season,” Krzyzewski said. “We tried something with Trev up top, and that didn’t go as well. We weren’t able to put pressure on the b Cal State Stanislaus Warriors Jerseys all as well. So during the week, we just made that change … But putting Jeremy on the ball was really important (Friday).”
Izzo has won 79 percent of his NCAA Tournament games on the two-day turnaround between the first round and second, or the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight. But he’s also won just 20 percent of his games against Krzyzewski, starting with a meeting in the Great Eight in 1998, then a Final Four meeting that same year.
It took Izzo almost exactly 14 years to earn his second head coaching victory over Duke, and it w Texas vs. Oklahoma Rivalry Gear asn’t because he wasn’t trying. The first had come in Austin in the 2005 Sweet 16, and a Spartans team that occasionally had frustrated its fans owned the No. 1 seed Blue Devils. After following that with a victory over No. 2 seed Kentucky, the Spartans were in their fourth of eight Izzo Final Fours.
The third came last season, in a near-em Notre Dame vs. USC Rivalry shirt pty Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Spartans players to appear in both games of the two-game series winning streak are guard Gabe Brown and center Marcus Bingham. They were ask NCAA Crewneck Sweatshirts ed Saturday if there had been any difference between the two games.
“It was to go to the Final Four,” Bingham said, “and they had a No. 1 draft pick on their team.”
“That’s a great answer,” Brown added.
Izzo was the victim at Madison Square Garden, in the first-ever Champions Classic in 2011, for Krzyzewski’s record-breaking 903rd victory, surpassing former mentor Bob Knight on the Division I career wins list.
Now, he’ll either be victim No. 1,200 for Krzyzewski or he will send Coach K into retirement. That’s a lot.
“I’ll pull for Mike Krzyzewski in every game but, I guess, one,” Izzo said. “But getting to 1,200 wins or 1,199 wins is just unbelievable. You talk about consistency. You talk about guys staying with the program.
“Man, if that record’s broken – and I know they’re all meant to be broken – but somebody’s going to have to start right out of the womb to break that record.”
COACH K'S FINAL SEASON:
Chapter 1: Ending the era
Chapter 2: Inside the greatest game
Chapter 3: Getting recruited by the legend
Chapter 4: Redeeming USA Basketball
Chapter 5: Coaching against K