Coming off the Spartans’ second-place finish in the Battle for Atlantis tournament, Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo started off his weekly press conference by discussing the team’s upcoming matchup with Louisville, adding that he hopes those in the crowd makes their presence felt.
“They’re a very balanced team, very good defensively,” Izzo said of the Cardinals. “It should be a very good game, I’m hoping that this is one of those big games when you hope the home crowd makes a difference.”
Speaking about the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, Coach Izzo gave credit to the teams the Spartans faced, starting with Loyola Chicago. Izzo said the Ramblers are a very good, experienced team and the Spartans’ win over them was a good victory for the team.
“We played against the most veteran team we could play and that was Loyola,” Izzo said. “We had a lead early and then we were down a lot, it went back and forth, but that was a good win for us.”
Izzo then talked about Connecticut, saying the Huskies were the second best team they had played all year, behind Baylor.
“We played who I thought, if I rated the teams right now, I’d put Baylor first, but I’d put UConn a close second and I’d put Kansas third,” Izzo said. “They had an incredible post player who was really good, they had a great point guard, and they were very good defensively, very well coached.”
When talking about Baylor, Izzo said he was surprised at how good the Bears were, considering the players they lost from their national championship team last year.
Speaking about his own team, Izzo said he is confident in the players he has and he just needs to figure out how to properly fit the team together.
“Like I said, I really like our parts, it’s now putting the puzzle together, that is the key,” Izzo said. “It’s going to take some time.”
When asked about how he views the annual Big Ten-ACC Challenge ahead of the team’s matchup, Izzo said he believes it helps the teams and conferences involved, especially considering the marquee matchups the Spartans are often involved in.
“This challenge is difficult because you never know who you’re going to get until later on, so it’s hard to plan the schedule, but at the same time, for us, we’ve played mostly marquee teams in the ACC,” Izzo said. “I think it’s been a great way to get a home game here with a real good team, I think it’s been fun for the two conferences.”
When asked about the performance of freshman guard Jaden Akins in the loss against Baylor, Izzo made it clear that, while he has a lot to learn, he believes Akins is going to be a very valuable player for the Spartans, even comparing him to former Spartan great Charlie Bell.
“Jaden is going to be, I think, one of our phenomenal players,” Izzo said. “It’s just, he’s got to figure out his offense and what he can do and what he can’t do.
“To me, he’s a Charlie Bell that might even shoot it better than Charlie did at the same age,” Izzo added.
In this week’s Associated Press Poll, the team entered the rankings at No. 22, the team’s first top-25 ranking of the season. When asked about this ranking, Izzo said he wasn’t aware they were ranked and was not worried about the rankings.
“I hate to say it doesn’t matter,” Izzo said. “You’re at Michigan State, ‘Wow’ is when you’re not ranked. I guess I’m pleased to say we’re ranked now, but it’s not something I live and die on.”