Four dozen and counting

Here's your list:

  1. Jason Klein
  2. Antonio Smith
  3. Mateen Cleaves
  4. A.J. Granger
  5. Morris Peterson
  6. David Thomas
  7. Charlie Bell
  8. Andre Hutson
  9. Aloysius Anoganye
  10. Adam Ballinger
  11. Jason Andreas
  12. Adam Wolfe
  13. Alan Anderson
  14. Chris Hill
  15. Kelvin Torbert
  16. Maurice Ager
  17. Paul Davis
  18. Drew Naymick
  19. Delco Rowley
  20. Drew Neizel
  21. Marquise Gray
  22. Idong Ibok
  23. Goran Suton
  24. Travis Walton
  25. Isaiah Dahlman
  26. Tom Herzog
  27. Raymar Morgan
  28. Chris Allen
  29. Kalin Lucas
  30. Durrell Summers
  31. Draymond Green
  32. Korie Lucious
  33. Delvon Roe
  34. Derrick Nix
  35. Garrick Sherman

That's the list of players to whom the statement "Every four-year scholarship player who's come into the Michigan State program under Tom Izzo has been to at least one Final Four" applies.  Nearly three dozen guys.  (Technical note: The assumption is that the guys listed from 28-35 will all stay four years.)

I saw the statement phrased slightly differently today by our friend Mr. Brennan (emphasis added):

Oh, and while we're here, it's worth noting that this Final Four extends Izzo's 13-year streak of never having coached a single upperclassman that didn't enjoy a Final Four appearance at least once during his time at Michigan State. And you wonder why Izzo recruits so well.

That statement also checks out.  You can add the names of two players who played three years for Izzo to the list:

  1. Brandon Smith
  2. Shannon Brown

Plus we've skipped at least five players who came into the program as walk-ons, stayed for at least three years, made substantive contributions on the court during their careers, and advanced to Final Fours:

  1. Mat Ishbia
  2. Tim Bograkos
  3. Matt Trannon
  4. Austin Thornton
  5. Mike Kebler

But that's not enough.  There have been five Spartans who didn't play even three years under Izzo's tutelage, but still got a Final Four ring:

  1. Doug Davis
  2. Mike Chappell
  3. Jason Richardson
  4. Zach Randolph
  5. Marcus Taylor

Last, but not least, one player was technically a Jud Heathcote recruit but hung around long enough to see the first Izzo Final Four:

  1. Thomas Kelley

Count 'em: 48 Michigan State basketball players who have gone to a Final Four during the Tom Izzo era (hah, hah, hah, hah, hah, hah hah).

Here is--as best I can tell (reference document is here)--the list of scholarship players who came in under Izzo, played at least one full season, and never went to a Final Four: DaJuan Wiley, Ken Miller, Rashi Johnson, Erazem Lorbek, Maurice Joseph.  Slim pickin's.

This year's NCAA Tournament heroics only expanded the list of Izzo Final Four guys by two (Nix and Sherman), but it greatly expands a subset of the list: Players who have reached at least two Final Fours under Izzo.  There are 22 of those players now: Cleaves, Ishbia, (Brandon) Smith, Bell, Peterson, Richardson, Thomas, Hutson, Granger, Ballinger, Anoganye, Lucas, Lucious, Kebler, Allen, Summers, Morgan, Dahlman, Thornton, Green, Herzog, Roe.  (The number's a little fuzzy: I'm not counting Andreas and Wolfe, since they were redshirts in 2000, but I am counting Kebler and Thornton since they were technically active players last year.)

If that's not building an elite program, I don't know what is.  A kid who is 17 right now and thinking about which college basketball program he'd like to play for has been watching MSU advance to Final Fours since he was 6.  And there are four dozen guys out there telling people about cutting down the nets after a regional final under Tom Izzo.  That's a fairly potent form of ambassadorship.

That's what makes this round of "Is someone going to steal Izzo?" seem fairly ludicrous.  There may be college basketball programs out there with pedigrees that go back further (though the list is short), and there may be schools out there with more money to throw around.  But there's no school that could give Tom Izzo a better base of support for him to achieve the kind of success he strives for--the kind that revolves around lists of four-year players, rather than one-and-done players.

For any high school recruit out there thinking to himself, "Which program gives me the best chance to play on the nation's biggest stage?", the answer has become pretty clear.

For those of us who picked our college destination based on a longer list of considerations (and, in this blogger's case, picked it a full six years before the first Tom Izzo trip to the Final Four), it's been one heckuva ride--and a ride that shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.

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