The 2022-23 Michigan State basketball season is off to a hot start and here are some of my early thoughts on it.
Well, the Michigan State basketball season has officially begun. I am a diehard Spartan fan but there are a few things I struggle with every season and I’m finally ready to air them out.
1. Why does Tom Izzo get the hate he does?
I do not — do not with three exclamation points (yes, I’m yelling this) — understand where all the hate for Tom Izzo comes from. Tom Izzo is an amazing coach; top three in the nation right now and he’s not No. 3.
I can hear the haters saying it now, “Well, he yells all the time and gets in players’ faces.” Yeah, you’re right he does do that but in other words, he holds players accountable. And guess what? He is loved by his former players. He’s also loved by his fellow coaches. But most of all, Izzo is the nicest guy in the world. He’s a Yooper which basically means the typical nice Midwesterner.
I’ve had several first-hand experiences with Izzo. I used to work at a golf course in Lansing, Eagle Eye to be exact. It also did catering events and I had the opportunity to work the annual Thanksgiving event at Izzo’s house. When I was there, I saw almost all of his current players and a ton of former players, and all of their families invited for Thanksgiving. Not only that but after dinner, Izzo came around to each worker and gave them a nice tip, and personally thanked them for giving up time with their families to be at his house.
I grew up around the East Lansing area and would often run into Izzo at the store. What other college basketball coach let alone a Hall of Fame coach would be going to the local LL after practice to pick up stuff for dinner? No matter what, every time I saw Izzo, I would say hi and we would have a 5–10 minute conversation about basketball or about life.
One of the most famous college coaches in the world just a regular nice guy. But that’s not how the media portrays him.
2. Why is there so much hype around Juwan Howard?
Why is there so much hype about the current Michigan head coach?
Let’s start at the beginning. Juwan Howard inherited a team built by the most successful head coach in Michigan history who was on the greatest run in Michigan basketball history. He didn’t take over some sorry team that was coming off of horrible seasons with zero talent on the team that would have needed to rebuild. John Beilein did that. He turned a Michigan program that was used to being at the bottom of the Big Ten into a team that made two championship games and won two regular and tournament titles.
Howard was given the keys to a brand-new red Ferrari and told not to crash it. Let’s be honest outside of Jace Howard, that first recruiting class was all from John. The players on the team were certainly still John’s players. That was the year the tournament was canceled due to COVID-19. The next year, the key players were still John’s guys. Hunter Dickerson, Isaiah Livers, and Eli Brooks were all from John’s time they would make the Elite Eight but the key players were all from his predecessor’s time.
Then finally, we enter the 2021-22 season where, to his credit, Juwan did manage to land the No. 1 recruiting class. But then the team had a letdown during the regular season. Going only 19-15 and barely making the tournament. They did manage to go on a run to the Sweet 16, though. But does that run warrant all the hype I’ve heard about Michigan this offseason? Not really.
Until he proves that he can be half the coach that John was, he deserves no hype.
3. How could MSU not be in the blue-blood conversation?
How can people not think that, at minimum, Michigan State deserves to be in the conversation as a blue-blood program? When you talk about what makes a blue-blood, what do you consider? All-time success? All-time great icons of the game?
Well, MSU has both of those.
Michigan State is fifth in all-time Final Four appearances with 10, which is more than programs like Indiana, Houston, Syracuse, Villanova, Georgetown, and UConn. The Spartans also have two national titles which is enough for top 10 of all time. They have a top-25 all-time winning percentage. But one of the most impressive things from my point of view is since 1976, MSU has had two head coaches, both of which are in the Hall of Fame: George Melvin Heathcote — aka Jud Heathcote — and Tom Izzo. For reference, in that same span, Kansas has had four head coaches, Kentucky has had six, and even North Carolina had four.
So, the success is there for blue-blood consideration. The icons are there, too: Magic Johnson, Mateen Cleaves, Draymond Green. Icons of the game. Michigan State basketball is, at least, in the conversation of blue-bloods.
Last thing as always: go green.