Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo began his weekly press conference on Monday by discussing the team’s strength of schedule thus far into the season, giving the Spartans credit for having one of the toughest schedules in the country.
“Today, our strength of schedule was (number) one amongst Power Five schools,” Izzo said. “We’re ninth overall, but we’re number one amongst major colleges, which I think is significant.”
When asked whether the tough schedule helps the team, Izzo said while it doesn’t necessarily help the young guys immediately, he believes it helps the team overall in the long term.
“I think it’s helpful for the team, not helpful for the younger guys,” Izzo said. “I still think it benefits us, benefits them in the long run. The long run now for people is tomorrow. I don’t know if it benefits us tomorrow; the long run, the Izzo factor, is the season, or sometimes even a little bit more into their second season.”
Izzo then went on to talk about the Spartans’ 81-68 victory over Toledo on Saturday, saying the team played one of their best halves of the new season, but still stressing the need for consistency.
“We had a really good first half against Toledo and did some things where I think we played as good a half as we’ve played, other than maybe Baylor,” Izzo said. “It’s just getting that consistency now, and if we can get the consistency throughout a full game, I think we’re going to be a much better team.”
Talking about the newer players on the team, namely freshmen guards/wings Max Christie, Jaden Akins and Pierre Brooks, as well as junior transfer point guard Tyson Walker, Izzo expressed his satisfaction in their performances thus far on both ends of the floor.
“Max (Christie) has been unbelievable defensively and Jaden (Akins) is not far behind,” Izzo said. “I guess I’ll call Tyson (Walker) a new guy, he’s now starting to play a lot better and starting to get acclimated. Pierre (Brooks) is starting to play more, too, so we are playing three freshman wings at some point in time, two of them a lot. I’ve been really pleased with them defensively.
“I am pleased with our freshmen and our new guys, a lot.”
Continuing about Christie, Izzo discussed his offensive struggles early in the season, saying he sees it as a regular freshman issue that he notices around the country. Izzo also made it clear that Christie isn’t allowing his offensive struggles to affect his play on the defensive end, which Izzo says impresses him greatly.
When asked about the health of forward Malik Hall, Izzo said while he is recovering from an ankle injury, he believes Hall should be ready to go for the Spartans’ game against Minnesota on Wednesday.
“I think he’s a lot better now,” Izzo said. “It doesn’t seem to be bothering him, the report is that it’s good to go now. It was a sprained ankle, it took a few days, I don’t see any repercussions or any problems with it.”
When asked about the team’s issue with turning the ball over, Izzo said he believes if the team can limit its turnovers, even just to 11 or 12 per game, the Spartans could be a very tough team to beat.
Speaking on Michigan State’s upcoming matchup with Minnesota, Izzo said the Spartans will not be underestimating the undefeated Golden Gophers, also referencing the Gophers’ 81-56 over the Spartans last season.
“Coming off a big win at Mississippi State, they’ve won two games on the road, at Pittsburgh and at Mississippi State,” Izzo said. “They’re one of 12 undefeated teams in the country, that’s a big deal. After the embarrassment of last year, one of the worst defeats in my era, I guess we’re looking forward to it.”