In sports, everyone is a winner—some people just win better than others. Like the new unanimous choice for greatest coach in the history of world history. Improbably, that guy works for Michigan State.
As someone who sat in the stands through Tom Izzo's first two seasons in East Lansing—and a few less than stellar seasons before that—it's a little odd to think about what this program has become. Back then a three-seed was considered a miracle year, but now the Spartans are considered "elite" and their coach is being praised as the best in the game. That's weird, right? So weird that Crazy Oregon thinks they can save their doomed franchise by wooing him away with cash. (Actually, everything Oregon does is pretty weird.)
The man apparently owns March now, thanks to what is clearly his best coaching job yet. This is a team that got embarrassed by Minnesota three weeks ago and then lost its best player and is now in the Final Four. He's throwing walk-ons out there as crunchtime defensive subs and his power forward brings the ball up under pressure (while running a three guard offense.) The guy has figured out what makes this team work and, amazingly, they just aren't making mistakes. They haven't panicked and they don't fold. That's from Izzo.
Of course, it also takes a little bit of luck. I don't imagine for a second that they would have beaten Kansas had Northern Iowa not taken care of them first. (And if that happens, we're not having this conversation.) There's was a buzzer-beater and that lane violation and Tennessee is not what I would call a "disciplined" team. Does outwitting Bruce Pearl make you the best coach in the game?
Let's not forget, in three of his first five Final Fours, State didn't win a game. There is a ton of talent on this team, yet they couldn't snag better than a five seed and there was that Minnesota debacle (among others.) Plus, there is one coach who comes to mind that's had slightly more success in the whole March Department. Eleven Final Fours, seven in nine years and three titles. Yep, Izzo manages the tourney better than anyone—except for maybe the guy on the other side of the bracket.
As a State fan I could not be happier with what's happened to this program ... but another title wouldn't hurt. If Izzo pulls it off with this team, I'll draw up the "Greatest" paperwork myself.
Spartans headed to Indy thanks to Izzo [Fox]
Izzo, Spartans make more March Magic [Yahoo]
Report: Oregon to offer Tom Izzo a contract [Sporting News]
Spartans' Izzo has every angle covered, even a little Magic [CBS Sports]
Michigan State 70, Tennessee 69 - Michigan State Tops Tennessee to Return to Final Four [NY Times]