Message to Tom Izzo: just win, baby.
Izzo, the Michigan State basketball coach, is one of the most celebrated in the sport. Announcers, sports writers and fans fall over him. They can't praise him enough.
Well, it's time for him to live up to the hype. Izzo must win the NCAA Tournament this year.
No more excuses.
It's set up for Izzo to finally capture his second title. His first championship seems so long ago. Were sports writers still using typewriters in 2000?
Izzo has accomplished a lot since then. This is MSU's Big Ten-record 19th straight NCAA Tournament. In the process, Izzo has won 73 percent of those games. He ranks fifth behind some of the biggest coaches in the game, including Coach K, Rick Pitino, John Calipari and Roy Williams.
Izzo is gunning for his eighth trip to the Final Four in his 21 season at MSU. The Spartans are a No. 2 seed and face No. 15 Middle Tennessee in St. Louis this afternoon.
Izzo has worked his magic in March to get to the Final Four. But ever since winning that title, Izzo's Spartans have been lousy in Final Fours. In fact, he is just 1-6 in his last seven Final Four games. All together, he’s 3-6 in Final Four games in his career.
For many, just getting to the Final Four would be a reason to celebrate. But not Izzo. The longer he goes without success against the best coaches and biggest programs, the more the shine from the title fades.
The Spartans have everything in place to make it happen. As a second seed in the Midwest bracket, MSU only has Virginia in the way to another chance at the Final Four and a championship.
(Photo Credit: USA Today)
Plus, let's be honest. College basketball is down this season. There aren’t many teams out there that scare you. None, in fact.
Plus, it's not as if Izzo doesn't have the horses. He does. Izzo has three super seniors in Denzel Valentine, Matt Costello and Bryn Forbes.
Valentine is the best player in college basketball this season and has all the awards to prove it. He can do it all - score, rebound and pass the basketball - and is a difference maker.
Costello, the 6-foot-9, 246-pound forward, is a force and another key part to this team
Forbes is a big-time three-point shooter. On the season, he knocked down 48 percent of his triple tries.
Izzo and the Spartans have been to the tourney countless times and made impressive runs into the Final Four. But Michigan State hasn't fared well in the big games in the Final Four of late.
Simply stated, Izzo has to win another championship. It's been 16 years since the Spartans were the last team standing at the end of the tourney. Since then, there has mostly been disappointment in March Madness, especially when so many claim that Michigan State is an elite program in college basketball.
To solidify himself as truly a great coach, Izzo has to win again. I've always said that “anybody can win one.” There are plenty of coaches out there who have won a single title.
Greatness truly is the ability to do it again with different players and circumstances. There are a lot of coaches who have won a title and no one will say they are great because of it.
To his credit, Izzo has acknowledged his desire to win it all again. He's not obsessed, but knows the importance of it.
If the Spartans don't win, heck, or even don't make it to the Final Four, many will look at Izzo and wonder why.
On paper, it's honestly his best chance to win and get back on top in college basketball.
Best of all for Izzo, it could cement his legacy as an all-time great. Izzo is one of 14 finalists for the Basketball Hall of Fame this year.
With current accomplishments, Izzo has a shot to be enshrined. But Izzo will be a slam dunk if he can finally win another championship.
The time has come for Izzo to join the other great coaches that win more than just once.
The pressure is on. Just win, baby.