Tom Izzo established his reputation as one of the game's premier coaches about a decade ago. It's only grown since and reached even higher proportions last year when he guided Michigan State to its fifth Final Four since 1999.
Well, he's gone up another notch.
The Spartans' 70-69 win in the Midwest Regional final against Tennessee will mark Izzo's sixth trip to the NCAA tournament's final weekend. Only John Wooden, Mike Krzyzewski, Dean Smith and Roy Williams have more.
Even better, only Wooden and Coach K got to six in a shorter span of time. Wooden's Bruins went to nine straight and 12 between 1962 and 1975 (Gene Bartow also took UCLA there in 1976). Krzyzewski's Devils were in six during a seven-year span and eight between 1986 and 1994.
Nobody's been better since than Izzo. (Roy Williams has been to
six seven between 1991 and 2009.)
Still, if that's not enough about Izzo's knack for winning in March, I offer this analysis from FiveThirtyEight.com, which details just how good Michigan State's been under Izzo. Go read it. If you're lazy, there's a table below.
The key points:
Michigan State's been a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament three times under Izzo, in '99, '00 and '01. Each year the Spartans advanced to the Final Four, as one would expect.
They've exceeded expectations three other times in Final Four runs, but also performed better than expected in '03 and did as expected in '98, '02, '07 and '08. Only '04 and '06 were down years.
(As a comparison, Duke exceeded or met expectations in all but one season during that '86-'94 run. The Devils advanced to the Final Four as a 1 seed twice, a 2 seed four times and a 3 seed once.)
This season was an ideal mix of winning without a key player (Kalin Lucas) and catching some breaks (avoiding a 1, 2 or 3 seed) for a Final Four run that surprised even some devout Spartans fans.
"There is nothing greater than going to a Final Four that I know of," Izzo said, "except winning it."
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