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NCAA Tournament Update: Thursday
 
 
 
Gary Harris goes up for a layup during MSU's open practice on Thursday at Lucas Oil Stadium.

 
Gary Harris goes up for a layup during MSU's open practice on Thursday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
 
 

March 28, 2013

MSU Game Notes | Press Conference: Izzo | Players

INDIANAPOLIS - The Michigan State men's basketball team practiced in front of fans at Lucas Oil Stadium on Thursday afternoon before meeting with the media to preview the Sweet 16 matchup against Duke.

The third-seeded Spartans (27-8) and second-seeded Blue Devis (29-5) will face each other in the second Midwest Regional semifinal on Friday at 9:45 p.m. in Lucas Oil Stadium. The first semifinal features top-seeded Louisville vs. 12th-seeded Oregon at 7:15 p.m. Both games are being televised on CBS.

The following is a complete transcript from Thursday's press conference:

COACH IZZO: Well, when the opening brackets came out and I saw the Midwest Regional, I did what most Spartan fans did, I took a little sigh and sat back, and then I said, you know, this is the way it's supposed to be. If you can get through the first weekend, everybody knows every game is going to be dynamite, and what a better program to start out with than Duke.

Mike's done it for so long and done it so well, and we get a chance to see where we are in that. So we've had a good week of practice. I think our guys are excited to be here. I think we're pretty healthy, and we're in maybe one of the best cities to be in for a Regional or Final Four, and we definitely with some of the best sets of teams that are here. We're looking forward to the challenge. So if there's questions, I'll take them.

Q. Heard you speak a number of times over the years about Duke and Mike Krzyzewski and respect for all that. I'm curious if there are specific things that you took from what he's done at Duke and tried to put into your program.

COACH IZZO: Well, there definitely has. And I do, I say that with respect to and admiration. I don't say it like we're in awe of them. But I think one thing I learned from him early on when I was trying to win one game in the tournament, he was trying to win the weekend, and that's one thing I stole from him.

And I think the other thing is try to run your program in a class way and graduate your guys and never dip too low. We've had consistency for 16 years now that it's been pretty consistent, and he's done it for 30 some. So we've got a long ways to go.

At the same time, I think he has been a model for a lot of people to follow. I'm going to be famous someday because it was our game last year at New York that broke the record. And I guess if you got to be famous, who cares what the reason is. But I'll be on a Monopoly game, I'll be one of the questions.

Yet, I look at it too that if we had to lose to somebody that was doing something special, the class and the way he's done things over time, his staff, his recruiting, we've had to recruit against him a few times and it's always fair and up and up. We usually lose, but we're trying to make some progress. It's games like this that kind of give you a chance to step up one more notch. That's what we're looking to do.

Q. Tom, you took the phones away last weekend. It worked great. Are you repeating that this weekend?

COACH IZZO: I better explain what taking the phones away means. It just means from our meetings, our bus rides to places like this. If I took the phones away the whole time, my guys would die. It's intravenous. I just got to unplug them from their veins. I think everybody's in the same boat with that.

Just when they come down to meetings, when they're in the bus, that's where I really enjoy it, on the way to practices or on the way here. I love not having - I love hearing a little noise in my bus. I'm not a big guy for it being completely quiet. It's nice to hear guys talking instead of (knocking). I hate that noise, to be honest with you (typing on phones).

Q. Tom, there used to be this theory that you had to have three pros to win the national championship. Did you ever buy into that theory? Why is it maybe changing? If you look at the two before Kentucky, it doesn't necessarily apply.

COACH IZZO: That one may not apply. Kentucky had like seven. So they made up for the two that didn't apply, I think, in that one year. But better players make you a better coach. Better players give you a better chance.

But I don't think - you look at this year and the number of teams, I think of us playing Miami and Kansas and Michigan and Indiana and Ohio State, all those teams are ranked 1, 2, or 3 at one time in the year. Some do, some don't.

I don't think it's the most important thing. I think the most important thing is the matchups, how your team's playing at the time, confidence in your players, who handles distractions as you get to these bigger scenes. I think there's a lot of factors than just having pros.

And yet saying that, at the end of the game it helps to have someone get a shot or somebody you can throw it into, like (Anthony) Davis, who can dunk it or somebody who can block a shot. Those things always help. We have to get a bigger lead since we don't have that and see if we can hold them off at the end.

Q. Coach, you had great respect for Bill Carmody. I know you're talking about the Duke staff here today. What do you know about Chris and how unique is the situation at Northwestern in the Big Ten?

COACH IZZO: It's going to be great. Chris has gotten tutelage from, arguably, the best. And when you look at the schools, as far as academically and all that, there's a lot of similarities. And I think Chris is a great fit. It's going to be fun to have him in the Big Ten.

I loved having Tommy Amaker from Duke in there when he was at Michigan. It all comes down to a couple of things. He's got to get players in there. They've got to make a total commitment to basketball. There's a lot of factors that go into being successful.

I've been fortunate what I've had at Michigan State, and I think if you put a good coach in a situation where everybody from the top down is focused in on the same goal, you're going to get it done.

And I think Chris Collins is going to be a good one to get it done. I love Bill Carmody. There's a lot of different reasons. There's some way better coaches than myself that are being fired. Some of us are being canonized while others are being fired. I look at some of those guys, they've done a better job than the job I've done. You've got to be lucky in this profession too.

Q. Coach, you talked earlier about Coach K and the respect and admiration you have for him. From an outsider's standpoint, the four coaches in this particular building this weekend, it's got a sense of one of these things is not like the other, considering the titles that you've won and Coach K and Coach Pitino. Where does Dana Altman fit in with the four of you this weekend?

COACH IZZO: He was like me back in ('99), when we played Duke again. I mean, that's the negative of this whole thing. We're always playing Duke, it seems like, and not getting our share of wins.

But Dana is a great coach. He proved himself at I guess you'd call it a mid major. I hate to use that terminology. But the job he did at Creighton was phenomenal. When he got hired out there, I told people he's going to be successful. Successful people are going to be good, no matter where they're placed.

I talked to Dana a little bit on the floor before I came, and he's got to get through. He's got a couple freshmen guards. That's not easy when you're playing Louisville of all teams. But it's just learning how to deal with all the folderol that goes on as you move on. First weekend's one thing. But when you get to 16, 8, and 4, there's a lot more things that I had to learn, and I'm sure Dana is a little more experienced than I was at the time. It was my fourth year as a head coach, the first time I went. I really didn't even know where I was going. They said press conference. What did that mean? That's about the way I took it early on.

But he'll do a great job. It is a little harder when - especially when you're in a region that has guys with a lot of experience. But experience doesn't win games. It helps you win games. Players win games.

Q. When you're preparing for a Mike Krzyzewski team, no matter who the personnel, is there something you know you're always going to get before you turn on the first game?

COACH IZZO: I'm going to get a disciplined team that doesn't beat themselves. And I think you can hope this guy doesn't shoot well or that guy. You're probably going to get a pretty good shooting team, and you're going to get a team that doesn't beat themselves. Most of the time, they're very solid defensively. You're not going to get a lot of full court pressing. You're not going to get a lot of zones.

The same with us. So that makes it easier in some ways. Unfortunately, the things they do do are so solid. And that's what I've always respected about him. You don't beat Duke unless you beat Duke. They're not going to beat themselves.

I think a lot of teams can have good games, bad games. They can have better shooting nights than not, but you've got to go out and earn your win. That's the first thing I think about. It's the first thing I said to my team. You better saddle up, because there will be nothing given. Everything will be earned in this matchup.

Q. Tom, is there any lingering effects on Keith's shoulder from last weekend? What do you see on the Dawson matchup?

COACH IZZO: I think that is going to be a good matchup. (Rasheed) Sulaimon has gotten better at putting the ball on the floor. I think he's taken it to the basket better. He's aggressive. I think Dawson is finally finding his legs. He's been a lot more assertive. He's shown more energy. He's been more active, and, of course, maybe he's got a little strength. Sulaimon's got some things on him.

There are no individual matchups. The way both teams play, I think it's pretty much team defense and that. But there are those matchups that at least you start out with when the play starts, and I can think of so many good ones in this game. I mean, almost all five are going to be kind of interesting, good matchups.

It's more interesting if I put Harris on him, because I think those two guys have come the same way. They've improved as every game's gone on and in different ways. But that will be a key matchup. I mean, there's no question Dawson's a key guy for us. He's the guy that makes us go from good to maybe very good if he's playing with the energy and the ability that he has.

Q. Coach, I want to ask you, you and Coach K, one of the things you have in common is that you've both been in the same place for a while. And I'm wondering if there's anything about the two of you, like personality wise or values or whatever that might have led you all to both stay put.

COACH IZZO: I really do think so. I mean, I don't know everything about Mike, but when I was younger, I read a lot of things about him. I don't do that anymore, because it bothers me, he's been too good for too long. But I look at Mike, his family. I look at where he came from. I look at his parents in Chicago and just the way that he grew up and it reminds me a lot of the same things I did.

So I guess when you've been raised right, you have a little more loyalty. I think that's part of the whole deal, and I think we both have had loyalty. I keep watching. You're putting us in the same sentence in one way, but I've got 17, 18 years in, and he's got in the mid-30s, I think. So I've got a long ways to go to kind of get to that level. And yet, I think we've maintained former players. We believe in the family atmosphere of a program and that the former players are as important as the current players. I think we believe in our universities and we have great loyalty to them.

And I think both of our - I know Mickey's involved. I know my wife, Lupe, is very involved in recruiting and everything else. I think we've engaged our family, our personal family into our professional family. And I think that too would have something to do with - we've taken ownership in our universities. We're not just employees. And I think you ask your team to take ownership, but they can't take ownership if you don't take ownership. I think the one thing I've tried to do is take ownership in the place I work at. And I know he's done that. And maybe that's the greatest compliment, I think, anybody can give anybody is that he's done some things over the test of time and sustaining them.

I had a great mentor in Jud Heathcote. Between Jud and I, we've got about the same amount of years that Mike's had there. I have had a decent amount of years there, because I was an assistant for 12 years before I took over. I'm kind of embedded there. There's no question he's embedded at Duke. And I guess that's what we have in common.

Q. Kind of that same line of questioning, the demands that you and he place on the players, you better play hard, you better defend or you're not going to play. Do you guys share that similarity, the standards that you apply that your players have to play by?

COACH IZZO: I think so. I hope so. I believe that that's why they win, and I think that's why we've won. We've had better offensive teams and we've had better defensive teams, but you've got to find some standard that is pretty equal each and every year.

And we've gone up and down a little bit, as I'm sure he has with his defense. But it's been pretty consistent over time. When Mike asked me the question, what do you think at first? Well, it's always that they're going to be very solid defensively.

Put some pressure on, but more important, solid. Not take a lot of chances. Not make a lot of mistakes. I think we've been pretty solid defensively, and we've been a pretty solid rebounding team just about every year I've been there.

As you hear in all sports, those are the consistencies that keep you going on a day in/day out basis. And so whatever we have done, you can bet that I have read books and watched and learned, and I don't look at that as anything bad at all. I look at that as a complete positive.

Q. Tom, you started this press conference by looking at the brackets. We know who your son picked. Can you talk a little bit about when you realized who he picked and the conversations you've had since then with him?

COACH IZZO: You're going to cause me a divorce, you know that? My wife's so mad at me right now. My son said it to a reporter last week. We're sitting at the table and he's getting ready for school and I'm getting ready to go to work. I always have a couple brackets that we have a little argument with, with our neighbors. And I make sure his name's on it, because the NCAA, you're not allowed to do any of that.

So I said, Steven, who are we picking here and who are we picking there? He had his whole bracket filled out and I get a big enlarged one. In our bracket, the only one that wasn't filled out to the end, I said, You haven't finished this one. He said, I'm having trouble with a game. I said, What game? He said, I got you getting to Duke, Dad. I said, That's good. I said, Where are we going from there? I don't know, you know. I don't know, Dad. I don't know.

So I just kind of - I tried to be a real parent, you know, not push your kid. Help him make intelligent decisions, like all of us do. And I said, Steven, I love you, man. Do it with your head, not your heart. Don't worry about Mom or Dad. The damn kid didn't do it. He didn't worry about us at all. He picked Duke and we move on.

So as I told a lot of people, I love my kid. He's a skinny little guy that won't be eating for a month if we lose this game. That's the way it works. That's the way it goes.

But it's been great to be in this region, like I said, and I'm really looking forward to the game. I feel like once in a while, maybe it's our time, our turn, and I think we're going to play our tail off. Whether it's enough, we're going to find out. It's going to be a great matchup. It's going to be great for college basketball. Thanks a lot for having me.

THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Coach. See you tomorrow night.

We have the student athletes from Michigan State, Branden Dawson, Gary Harris, and Keith Appling.

Q. Keith, could you give us an update on your health situation, how your shoulder's feeling?

Keith Appling: My health situation is very fine. I wouldn't really say that my shoulder is 100 percent, but it's close to it. I'm going to do as much as I possibly can to help my team advance in this tournament.

Q. Keith, could you kind of talk about how Gary has performed as a freshman and maybe things you've done to maybe help him kind of integrate himself into the Big Ten basketball?

Keith Appling: Gary has done a great job, just adjusting from the high school level to the college level. And I try to talk to him as much as I can to get him little pointers about what to do and what not to do. He's been very successful with that.

Q. Branden, can you and Gary both talk about coming home and what that means to you, to be here?

Branden Dawson: It's definitely exciting coming back home. Your family and friends can come see you play and people from all over Indiana can definitely see you play. So it's very good to come back and play in your hometown.

Gary Harris: Like Branden said, it's definitely very exciting, but I feel like we'll feel so much better if we can get two wins. It's the main goal to first take care of business the first game, and hopefully we can get to the second game. And that's just where we're really concentrating on right now.

Q. Branden, can you discuss Rasheed Sulaimon's game for Duke, what's going to be important for you in the matchup?

Branden Dawson: He's a very good player, an McDonald's All American. And coaches - we're watching film, the coaches talked about him being the one that's aggressive, coming off ball screens, he can shoot it. And Duke had very good space, and Rasheed is very aggressive. He can shoot the ball.

I'll say he's kind of like Gary. I say that their game is very similar, aggressive. He's not really as athletic as Gary, but he can shoot it. Very smart.

Q. Branden, obviously, Coach K is a good coach. What does Coach Izzo say about Coach K in his coaching style and what he'll bring to the game tomorrow night?

Branden Dawson: Coach really talked about Coach K being a successful player. He says a lot of teams really fall under the stigma of Duke and their name because they have a lot of great players. You have a lot of great players, and Coach K is just - he gets his job done. And he just produces great players. He produces prospects and NBA players.

Q. Branden, this is kind of a somewhat weird question. Do you see yourself filling kind of a Rodman type role in this team, just kind of energy, defense, and running up and down the floor? Not that crazy, but you know what I mean?

Branden Dawson: I'll say yeah, the little things. It's not all about scoring. The last against Valparaiso and Memphis, didn't really score a lot of points, but it was really not about scoring. It's about little things and just helping your team out. And I brought that, brought the energy, ran the floor so Keith can get the ball to me in the open court. Just the little things to help my team out.

Gary Harris: I'll step in on that. Branden, he does a lot of stuff that most people wouldn't really recognize like keeping the ball alive, getting other people points, like little hockey assists. Coach talks about him. He makes a lot of things happen that necessarily doesn't go into the stat book, but when we watch film, he makes a lot of plays happen, and is a key part to our success over the last two games.

Q. Guys, the teams are different compared to when you played at Madison Square Garden last season. Almost two full seasons now since that meeting. What do you remember of that game and the players that remain for both sides and the matchups and that sort of thing as you look ahead to tomorrow night?

Branden Dawson: Being it was the last year of my freshman year, I was nervous. That was my first time playing in New York, first time playing at Madison Square Garden. And Duke, they were a good team last year, Austin Rivers, you know, great guys, Dawkins and all those guys.

So I'll say it was very different. A couple guys that played last year went back and watched the game and looked at some things we could have worked on.

Keith Appling: Yeah, I mean, those guys, I feel like they're a completely different team from last year. Some of the guys still on the team, like Curry and Thornton and Cook, those guys have gotten a whole lot better since last year.

So we're going to have to - the main thing is we're going to have to stay solid for 40 minutes and try to contain those guys and see what happens from there.

Q. Keith, they talk about player matchups and just the Duke/Michigan State matchup in general. What do you think about the coach matchup in this game?

Keith Appling: It's incredible, you know. Two future Hall of Fame coaches going at it in the Sweet 16. It doesn't get any better than this. But I feel like the main thing is whatever team goes out there and do whatever their coaches do will be more successful.

Q. A question for all three of you guys. Looking back to the Memphis game last weekend, what one thing that Adreian did stood out to you? Maybe if it was one play or one little thing that he did?

Branden Dawson: Adreian Payne was good on both ends. He played good defensively. He went up and blocked one of the lobs, D.J. Stephens'. In that game, I don't think D.J. Stephens had a dunk. Adreian Payne contested every dunk or layup that went down.

On the offensive end, he was very aggressive, he brought a lot of energy. He's starting to come around and just get a feel for it.

Gary Harris: Yeah, he made his presence felt throughout the whole game, whether it was getting the rebound, getting blocks, getting dunks inside the paint. I mean, I think he finished - he definitely had 10 rebounds. He definitely cleared up the boards and was definitely a presence on the defensive end and really stopped them from getting a lot of easy baskets.

Keith Appling: I would say one of the plays that helped kind of change the game a little bit was when he went up and blocked D.J. Stephens' dunk. I think that sent the momentum towards our side, and we kind of played off of that. That was a game changing moment. That helped us carry out with the win.

Q. Branden, you obviously knew who Gary was, growing up in Indiana. What were your expectations of him as a freshman? How has he surprised you or did he live up to what you thought he was?

Branden Dawson: Yes. I first met him in the LeBron James Skills Academy. We were guarding each other. I'm like: Who is this kid? He was strong, and didn't know he played football until then. He told me he played football, and I was like: That's why. When I first saw you, you were strong.

Gary is a humble guy. He's like a lot of guys that coach recruits, just humble guy. Just very humble, very smart, and he's a very good player. He's kind of adjusted good coming off the high school level.

Q. How is your team a reflection of your coach?

Branden Dawson: I'll say that our team is - we come together as a team. I'll say we're like brothers. We hang - we just bond together on and off the court. We have our differences, get into it, but I'll say definitely as a team, man, we're brothers.

Q. What traits are unique to the way you guys play the game that are a reflection of Coach Izzo?

Keith Appling: I would say our toughness. That's one of the things the program is built off of because of Coach Izzo. We're just trying to carry all the same things out there on the floor. And it has been successful for us over the years.

Q. Keith, how are you physically feeling? It seemed like your shot looked a lot more comfortable today. Are you adjusting to the brace and everything like that?

Keith Appling: Right now I feel like it's more mental than anything. If I try not to so much worry about how my body's feeling or anything else that's going on, I feel like I play better. So I'm just trying not too much to worry about it and just go out and play and have fun.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

 

 

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