Michigan State men’s basketball coach Tom Izzo started off the MSU athletics press conference on Monday discussing the Spartans’ performance in their two exhibition games leading up to the official start of the season, as well as their upcoming game against the No. 3-ranked Kansas Jayhawks in the State Farm Champions Classic.
“It’s an exciting time of year for us,” Izzo said. “The two exhibition games I think went pretty well.
“It’s always exciting to start the season and when you start it like we do, with this Champions Classic, it’s a privilege,” Izzo added.
While discussing the Champions Classic, Izzo mentioned the planned retirement of Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski following this season, saying he looks forward to seeing Krzyzewski there before his final season.
“(Mike Krzyzewski)’s done a lot for our game, a lot for basketball in general, and it’ll be fun to see him there as he starts his farewell tour,” Izzo said.
Izzo went on to talk about where his team is at both physically and mentally as the Spartans prepare for their showdown with the Jayhawks.
“So far, I have liked what I’ve seen out of our team,” Izzo said. “Our veterans...have all been better in every way shape and form.”
The Spartans head into the Champions Classic as the only team not ranked in the top-10, falling just outside the top-25 rankings. When asked if that provides a chip on the shoulder mentality going into the season, Izzo said he understands why the team is unranked and they haven’t earned the right to use that mentality.
“Sometimes I use the chip on the shoulder,” Izzo said. “I didn’t use it this year and I haven’t used it at all because I haven’t deserved to use it. We are where we are because of how we played last year.
“I haven’t used the chip on the shoulder because the only time you use that is if you picked us bad or you talk bad about us and you’re wrong.”
Izzo also said he looks at being unranked as an opportunity for the team to work its way up, and that he has no problem starting out unranked as long as the team doesn’t end there.
The matchup will take place in Madison Square Garden in New York City, and Izzo says he’s interested to see how his players respond to playing in arguably the most iconic basketball venue at any level of the sport.
“I’m anxious to see how some of our guys respond,” Izzo said. “It’s not the same talking to them about what it means to be in a game like this, I mean these are memory-making events.”
A video of Izzo’s full press conference is below. Additionally, a video of Michigan State women’s basketball head coach Suzy Merchant’s press conference is available below as well. The women’s team also begins its season on Tuesday, playing at home in the Breslin Center at 6 p.m. (Eastern Time) against Morehead State.