For Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo, it's always been "go big or go home". Tuesday, he reiterated that sentiment for this year's squad, as well.
The Spartans are no stranger to having deep runs in the NCAA tournament each March, much ado to the incredible leadership and respect commanded by Izzo among his players and around the country, too. So when Izzo told reporters that he expects his team to make an incredible run in the Big Dance as a whole, it came as no surprise to many.
"We're I think a pretty good team and maybe a great team if we get more than two guys to play well at the same time," said Izzo.
No. 3-seeded Michigan State opens up play under the national spotlight (for at least the first part of the match up) against No. 14-seeded Valparaiso on Thursday. The Spartans drew a tough first match up, to be sure, but Izzo thinks his team's track record and the wide variety of teams faced over the course of the season will provide all of the experience needed for a deep run.
"I'm always disappointed if we don't make a good run in the tournament," Izzo added. "I think this team is good enough to make a good run in the tournament. I think last year's team was. I was disappointed in the loss we had then."
Missing from this year's line-up is a solid leader the likes of last year's superstar captain, Draymond Green. Though the Spartans had a disappointing early exit in 2012 NCAA Tournament, one cannot underestimate the value of an unquestioned team leader like that of the former Spartan in Green.
"I don't think we still have the leadership that you need or that you'd like to have, so it was a little more difficult that way, but I still think we had great chemistry on this team," Izzo told The Game 730 AM.
Still, the similarities between the circumstances surrounding this year's and last year's squads is a little uncanny, to be sure.
"We're in a similar position we were in last year. We got a similar team that we didn't just beat anybody by out‑talenting them," Izzo said. "I think if we were totally healthy with (Branden) Dawson and Harris, we are more talented than last year's team. But we're not in that position and we don't have the leader with (Green).
"I will be disappointed if we don't make a run, I really will."
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