Izzo Has Warning For MSU Fans, Whether Or Not Season Goes On

He's proud of his team, particularly Cassius Winston.

Jamie and Stoney
March 12, 2020 - 11:42 am

Tom Izzo doesn't know how far his team will go in the NCAA Tournament. He doesn't know if the tournament will be held at all, amid fears of the coronavirus. 

Whatever happens, Izzo is sure of this: the 2019-20 season has been a successful one for Michigan State. He hopes the fanbase keeps that in mind over the coming days and weeks. 

"It’ll disappoint most Michigan State fans (to hear this), this has been a successful season. And I mean that from the bottom of my heart," Izzo told the Jamie and Stoney Show. "The one thing that no one will understand is what this team has been through, from the Josh Langford loss two weeks before the season started, to Cassius, to Rocket missing December, to Kyle Ahrens, to Xavier Tillman having a baby, the whole thing.

"When you add it all up, the resiliency, the way Cassius has dealt with something that I couldn’t deal with, I’m not sure I could have dealt with the situation Xavier dealt with in his life, it’s been an interesting year."

The NCAA has already decided to play its marquee tournament without fans. Considering the NBA suspended its season Wednesday night, with other professional leagues beginning to follow, there's a chance the NCAA will cancel March Madness altogether. As of Thursday morning, Izzo was still preparing his team for its first game in the Big Ten Tournament, which is also liable to be shut down. 

"Maybe we’ll know something this afternoon. I’ve been told nothing," he said. "But when you see some of the things that happen, there’s usually the trickle-down effect. If that happens, it’ll be for a good reason. And if it doesn’t, we’ll play the games."

Whether or not the games continue, Izzo wants it to be known that he's proud of his team -- particularly Cassius Winston, who's given Michigan State everything he has in the wake of a horrible tragedy. The senior's terrific play down the stretch lifted the Spartans to their third straight Big Ten championship. 

"I would just warn the Michigan State fans out there and maybe even the fans of college basketball and life: what Cassius has done is almost mind-boggling," said Izzo. "I sit there every night and say, how could I do it? How did I deal when my dad died? And this is a brother. It’s different when you’re 60 or your dad’s 90.

"To navigate through a season and try to find a safe place on the court, it’s taught me more and it should teach everybody more about life than anything we do. So Final Four would be great, Elite 8 would be great, winning this Big Ten Tournament would be great, but I have to tell you, this season has been one of the more rewarding – challenging but rewarding – seasons I’ve ever had here."

If the NCAA Tournament does go on, Izzo knows it's a wide-open field. 

"We are realistic enough to know we are as good as probably most teams in the country," he said. "But I can tell you, there’s six or eight Big Ten teams that (can say) that. I don’t think the country is like it was in ‘09 when we played North Carolina in Detroit and they were better than the Celtics that year. I don’t think it’s Duke last year. Yes, we beat them, but that team was head and shoulders above 90 percent of the teams.

"Kansas is probably the favorite, but I don’t see anybody that much better. Unfortunately, I don’t see a lot of teams that much worse than the upper echelon, so it’ll come down to matchups and everything."

As for the idea of playing tournament games in empty arenas, Izzo said it's sad. 

"It saddens me for our players, our fans. It saddens me for our seniors who don’t get another chance at this," he said. "But I’ve learned a lot this year, three or four different times, that there are things bigger than sports and bigger than basketball. And this is one of those things that I guess teaches you a life lesson.

"If we play the games, 50 years from now they’ll be looking back and talking about this thing. And if we don’t play the games, 50 years from now they’ll be looking back. So unfortunately it’s going to be part of history. I just hope that for all parties involved, meaning players, fans, everyone else, everybody stays healthy. That’s the bottom line."