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It’s time to admit that Tom Izzo has lost his fastball

It’s Izzover, folks.

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Tom Izzo
© Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports

No one wants to admit that Tom Izzo has lost his touch, but the Hall of Fame head coach just doesn’t have it anymore.

Going into halftime after shouldering a barrage of circus threes by Nebraska, Tom Izzo stared up at a 34-31 lead on the road and had to feel good about things. The Spartans were just 4-4 heading into the game and just couldn’t seem to buy a break this season.

The reason for the struggles? Well, if you asked Izzo, he’d blame himself. He’d tell you that the team isn’t tough enough and that’s a problem because of his suddenly-relaxed coaching style. Izzo isn’t breaking clipboards, he’s not screaming in players’ faces, and he’s called himself soft. It’s not a horrible thing that he’s lightened up a bit but it’s also not his style. He’s veered away from that.

In the second half, Nebraska came out firing and went on a quick 11-2 run and forced Michigan State to play catch-up — something the Spartans are way too used to this season and for the past few years.

The Spartans fought back (another trend) and took a late lead (another trend) and then fell short (stop me if you’ve heard this before).

With the loss, Izzo’s team drops to 4-5 on the season and 0-2 in the Big Ten. Yes, you read that correctly, the Spartans are now under .500 nine games into a season in which they started No. 4 in the country. They brought back essentially everyone from a Sweet 16 team and added the No. 4 recruiting class in the nation. And yet they’re 4-5. This was the first loss to Nebraska by Michigan State in seven years.

Horrible.

And as the clock was ticking down and the Spartans were headed toward another loss, I saw the camera pan over to the Hall of Fame coach on the sideline smiling and telling AJ Hoggard “that’s my fault” for another mistake that was made. Mind you, Michigan State was down by two possessions at this point. That lack of a sense of urgency is telling.

Izzo has lost his fastball.

Can he turn things around and turn this team into a vintage Tom Izzo team from 4-5 years ago? Absolutely. There’s plenty of time. But what we’ve seen so far this season doesn’t hint at that happening. There seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel. The same mistakes keep happening.

And it’s not just this year. It’s been like this since 2020. Michigan State has 44 losses since the 2020-21 season Fourty-four. That’s more losses than the Spartans had in the previous five seasons combined. It’s been 3.25 seasons. Izzo is 31-30 in Big Ten play since 2020-21. How does this prestigious program with a Hall of Fame head coach have a stretch like that? It’s unacceptable.

The NCAA Tournament streak is very much in danger.

I get it, Tom Izzo has earned the benefit of the doubt. He’s made eight Final Fours, he’s won 10 Big Ten titles, and six Big Ten Tournament titles, but how much longer are we going to see the horrible lineups, weird substitutions (taking Hoggard out when he’s playing well), ignoring playing time for his elite five-star freshmen, and nightmare plays out of timeouts (a turnover with under 25 seconds left after a timeout) before we question Izzo?

But don’t worry, he’s going to take the blame again and say that the team needs to toughen up and he’ll make sure that happens. Maybe that’ll work, maybe it won’t. But it’s getting old.

Writer, co-owner of Spartan Shadows. Michigan State and college football expert at FanSided and formerly of The Detroit News. Expert on all things Michigan State. Connor Muldowney has written about Michigan State since graduating from the university with a degree in journalism back in 2013. Ten years of experience as a Michigan State writer/reporter.

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