Michigan State's Izzo driven to win another title
Michigan State's two national championship trophies are on display in a glass case near coach Tom Izzo's office. Between the crystal hardware, words on an empty pedestal spell out Izzo's mission: "Reserved for future championship." The Spartans lead the nation with five Final Four appearances since 1999. Michigan State, though, has won only one national championship during their decade of excellence. When Izzo is reminded of that fact, he bristles because he knows how difficult it is to win games in college basketball's signature event. "What I complain about, I usually agree with," Izzo said Wednesday. "If it doesn't bother me enough, I probably wouldn't complain about it." Izzo and the Spartans are motivated to follow up their magical run last spring to the Final Four in Detroit, where they were routed by North Carolina in the championship game. He wants to win another title to put the basketball program in the elite company of schools with at least three and to join a select group of coaches with two championships. UCLA, Kentucky, Indiana, North Carolina, Duke and Kansas are the only programs with three national titles. If Izzo wins another championship, he'll trail only John Wooden, Adolph Rupp, Bobby Knight and Mike Krzyzewski on the list of coaches with multiple titles. "That drives me every day," Izzo acknowledged. The Spartans seem to have a shot this season to give Izzo what he wants. They're ranked No. 2 or No. 3 in the nation by several preseason magazines and Web sites because seven of their top nine scorers are back, including Big Ten player of the year Kalin Lucas and senior standout Raymar Morgan. "I enjoy the expectations," Izzo said. "But I have to remind myself, and you, what we lost." Michigan State is without last year's Big Ten defensive player of the year, Travis Walton, its best post player, Goran Suton, along with role players Marquise Gray and Idong Ibok. Their departures leaves Izzo worried about leadership, chemistry and the frontcourt. The Spartans might have the nation's best three-guard backcourt with Lucas, Durrell Summers and Chris Allen. Their frontcourt lacks experience and depth. Michigan State is counting on sophomores Delvon Roe and Draymond Green to grow up fast and desperately hope to get some contributions from 7-foot junior Tom Herzog along with freshmen Derrick Nix and Garrick Sherman. "I am concerned about the fact that we have no proven center," Izzo said. Izzo fears that weakness will get exposed against Florida, North Carolina and Texas during a non-conference slate that also includes a matchup with Gonzaga. Michigan State will start practicing Friday night during "MSU Midnight Madness," an event that open to the public. The 2009 Final Four banner will be raised, then Lucas said the Spartans will focus on working hard enough to put something better in the Breslin Center's crowded rafters. "It's hard to do better than we did last year," Lucas said. "But I think it's possible that we can get back there and win that last game."