EAST LANSING - Michigan State coach Tom Izzo continued to warn members of the media and fans that his team's 5-0 start in conference play is as much the product of the schedule as it is anything the Spartans have done on the basketball court.
"Number one, a lot of times when those starts took place it was on a 16-game schedule not an 18," explained Izzo. "Number two, I don't think anyone would disagree with me that the schedule is different than maybe it has been any year since I have been in the league as far as the number of teams playing two games in a week and a half. I think we can get a distorted picture, positively or negatively. Ohio State is a good example, negatively of a team that started out with four of their first five games on the road.
That makes a big difference no matter who you are playing. Just like it does with a couple of teams that started out with four out of five or four out of six games at home. We have kind of split the difference.
"What you did only counts for the start. It makes you feel good about the start. It leaves people chasing you. But it doesn't have anything to do with anything but maybe a false impression that we could get of where this team is right now. It is getting better. It is playing better. But the record, and there is going to be in the next week after Iowa where you have the next six out of eight on the road, there is going to be a lot of fluctuating. I think it is going to be that way for a lot of teams. I hate to ruin everybody's day, but I still think that four or five losses could still win this league. I really, really do."
Michigan State will play three teams two times before facing other teams in the conference for the first time. Iowa is one of those teams the Spartans play twice early.
"What I am not doing is hiding behind the fact that we are 5-0," Izzo said. "But don't come to me in two weeks and say why this, why that. The schedule has driven some of this and I want to make sure that everybody knows from a realistic standpoint more than a motivating standpoint that there is a little bit of fool's gold floating around out there."
Iowa is playing its best basketball. The Hawkeyes are riding a two-game win streak with a victory over Penn State and Tennessee State since losing at home by 17 points to the Spartans. The difference in those two games for Iowa, according Izzo, has been the improved play of sophomore Aaron Fuller, who was coming off a severe ankle sprain the first time MSU played Iowa. Fuller who averages seven points per game is coming off a career performance against Penn State.
Izzo has relayed a similar message to his basketball team. The veteran coach could find out this Wednesday whether his words have been received by his team or if they have been tuned out when Iowa travels to the Breslin Center for the second of two meetings between the Hawkeyes and Spartans in conference play. Michigan State enters the game riding a six-game winning streak since losing to Texas in December.
"When you play a team almost back to back, I don't think it is good for the team that won," Izzo said. "He is probably looking at it like it is probably not good for the team that lost because maybe you don't have the confidence. But I think that complacency is something that you always have to worry about. We are going to find out if our team leadership has grown and our maturity has grown. If those two things happen we are going to be able to build on the good things we did there and correct the things we didn't do a good job of there and hopefully improve for our final home game of this stand."
Izzo said that he did not believe his team was getting fat and sassy. He continues to be encouraged by the growth his team has shown during the first two game of the Spartans current three-game home stand.
"We focused in very well on the scouting reports," said Izzo. "We did the things we had to do there. I thought our only negative, maybe, was the lack of energy at the beginning of both of those game. And yet I think that the two teams we played, the coaches made it a point to bring it early and they did. They did a good job of that. Consequently, I think that was our only weaknesses of the two games. I also felt that we didn't necessarily shoot it great but I am starting to realize that we are having different people that are stepping up at different times and that maybe that is the way this team is going to be."
The improved play of forwards Delvon Roe and Raymar Morgan a positive development for the team said Izzo. "Getting Delvon and Raymar to play markedly better is encouraging and I think it will help us. I think they had to take that step, especially in Delvon's case. Considering he fouled with 10 minutes to go, he could have been on his way to a big double double game and I think that would have been good for his confidence and everything. Yet I saw some big strides as far as him attacking the basket, offensive rebounding better, throwing that jump hook up. I think he is starting to do some things that he has done."
VIDEO: IZZO WARNS AGAINST COMPLACENCY
If you are unable to watch the video embedded in the text above, click on the link below for footage of Izzo's weekly press conference.