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No. 1 Michigan State Meets the Media in Advance of Maryland Game

Jan. 2, 2018

East Lansing, Mich. -

Michigan State’s men’s basketball team met with the media on Tuesday in advance of its Big Ten Conference game against Maryland on Thursday, Jan. 4 at the Breslin Center.

It was the first time the Spartans met with the media since the team moved into the No. 1 national ranking in the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches polls.

The Spartans, winners of 13-straight games, improved to 14-1 overall with a 108-52 win over Savannah State on Sunday at the Breslin Center. It was the fourth-straight game that MSU had scored at least 100 points, the first time in program history the team has done so.

Head Coach Tom Izzo and players met with the media on Tuesday morning after practice to discuss the team’s ranking and the re-start of Big Ten Conference play this week, starting with the Maryland game.

Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo

On being the No. 1 team…
I do (love the bullseye). I do. I think there’s a lot of teams that could be. You know, I think Duke’s, as you know, as good as anybody. I still love Villanova, but you know what, I don’t think we’ve been given anything either. I think we’ve earned our keep to take our shot at it for a while. The key is not to get there, the key is to stay there and the key is to end up there, so we understand that. You know, I just think it’s a plus for our players to feel like what they’ve done so far gets rewarded a little bit. How they handle it will be … will speak volumes to what our near future is like.



On having to earn the spot at No. 1…
I think we have. I think we’ve played against good enough people. You know, these last four games have made it a little crazy. It’s always ‘What did you do for me today?’ you know, and so I think we get hurt where other teams played some of those teams early, we have to play them late because of our schedule. We’re playing the same teams everybody else played, in fact more than most are playing, but as you guys know, it means nothing right now. I think it’s good for our program, for our university and I think it’s good for our players to understand the pressure they’re going to be under went from high to enormous, and you got to be able to handle that.

On not having much adversity…
Yeah. Definitely. Kind of funny, I had a meeting last night and this morning about that with my team. In fact, one of the things I did this morning is showed them the kick against Oklahoma (football), the blocked kick. I showed them that and talked to them about it, like a free throw, you know? Those guys, everybody talks about how many kicks Georgia blocked, what was it two for the year? (That was the third.) Yeah, so two out of 100 of extra points in field goals, that’s not very many, but it’s like missing a free throw, you know? We showed them the cutout free throw in the North Carolina-Oregon game, you know, to try to say the little things do matter. You know, I still personally think that’s one of Nick’s (Saban) biggest successes at Alabama is every little thing matters and it’s hard to make people understand that. It’s one of my biggest concerns because last year, mistakes weren’t always dealt with because we were trying to survive and this year, you don’t get to make those same mistakes and try to win the Big Ten now. You know, you can’t have just some days that you just don’t come, because you’re going to have enough days when you come that are going to be tough so it was a good learning experience that little things matter and that was my way of showing them today getting a little of my favorite sport in there besides.

On conference play…
I’m looking forward to it, you know, because I think we can become a little bit fooled, if we can’t, I think fans can be of these four games and take nothing away from us. I think when you play good defense and you shoot well, that means you’re playing both ends of the court and I think we earned the right to feel good about that but let’s not lose perspective. Some of those teams had an injured player. Some of them we were just better than, and what I’ve liked about this team is, including Duke, it’s been pretty consistent. Most of the consistency has been in a good area, our defense or our offense. You know, a little struggle there at three-point shooting early. The only inconsistent has still been the turnovers, but when you look at both ends of the court we’ve been pretty consistent.

On the little things they can improve on…
We shot the ball better. We were shooting it decent but we shot it a lot better and that’s the Boeheim rule that you get confident sometimes which is probably true. I thought we ran much better, you know, because we had more opportunities to run. I thought we executed a little better, you know. I think in some of those games we didn’t turn it over bad. I thought we had stretches where we were a lot better. One game, in three quarters of the game we had six turnovers, you know and we had five in the last minute or two, things weren’t right. This last game, we started out and we had 10 in the first nine minutes and then we had seven or eight in the next 31 minutes, so I think we’re playing stretches better, but I guess what I love most is I think you know Gavin’s (Schilling) getting a little better, X (Xavier Tillman) is getting a lot better, Kenny (Goins) is making some improvement here and now it’s time to get Jaren (Jackson Jr.). Jaren is the next one to really get going and get some things today, that, you know some of that is falls on me you know. The running part, the offensive rebound falls on him, the getting more shots falls on me, so we’ll keep working on that because I think that’s another weapon we have that has not been exploited yet.

On Xavier Tillman earning more opportunities…
I think he has. I think he has, you know, and I heard something last night. You know, again, I watch TV for different reasons. (DeMar) DeRozan from Toronto had a 50-point night and he’s been on a terror lately and they said ‘What do you attribute it to?’ And he said ‘Less minutes.’ I think just like the announcer was like one of you guys, like you up there, and he goes ‘Huh?’ And he says ‘Less minutes. We’re playing more people. I’m not playing as many minutes. I’m fresher.’ I thought that was an interesting point, but I think it is valid and true, you know, and does that mean that Miles (Bridges) is going to play 25 minutes, no. But does that mean he’s going to play 35 like some teams are doing with their starters, hopefully not. You know, we’ve got a rotation. Now, that rotation isn’t going to be as strong as it’s been probably. You know, you hope they get as many shots as we’ve been getting but Big Ten play, any conference play there’s going to be less possessions probably. So those will all be things that we’re going to have to adjust to that I think will be interesting.

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