It is undeniable that Tom Izzo is one of the best coaches in the Big Ten Conference with his Michigan State Spartans, especially in regards to making the NCAA Tournament. How efficient is Tom Izzo at making the NCAA Tournament? Try 18 straight seasons with an NCAA Tournament bid, the third longest active streak in Division 1 college basketball. Since taking the head coaching job in East Lansing back in 1995, Izzo turned an average Michigan State team into a post-season dynasty. As Michigan State and Tom Izzo will go dancing yet again this year, it is imperative that we take a deeper look at the history of this program under their legendary coach.
The Dark Ages
Believe it or not, it wasn't all happy times for Tom Izzo right off the bat. Michigan State finished 9-9 in conference play in each of Izzo's first two seasons as head coach. Subsequently, Michigan State missed the NCAA Tournament. Surely his ability to take the Spartans to an NCAA Tournament was slightly in question, but Izzo proved the cynics wrong during the 1997-98 season. It was during this stretch of Izzo's career in which he grabbed hold of 13-3 conference record and his first NCAA Tournament appearance as the head coach of Michigan State.
The Golden Years
From 1998 until 2015, it has been quite a ride for coach Tom Izzo and his Michigan State Spartans. Tom Izzo has taken his team to the Big Dance 18 years in a row, and he has reached six Final Fours, including three straight from 1999-2001. It was during this run of Final Four appearances that Tom Izzo won his one and only National Championship in 2000 over the Florida Gators. Izzo has won the Big Ten Tournament Championship four times and has been named Big Ten Coach of the Year on three separate occasions.
The last time Michigan State went to the National Championship was in 2009 when it was beaten by North Carolina. Tom Izzo also took his Spartans to the Final Four the year after before being beaten by the Butler Bulldogs. Coach Izzo has a .725 winning percentage in the NCAA Tournament which is third among active coaches who have coached ten or more tournament games.
The reason that Michigan State has found so much success in the NCAA Tournament is due coach Izzo's ability to win games and get hot in March. After seeing a slump from Michigan State earlier in the season, coach Izzo got on his guys, especially seniors Travis Trice and Branden Dawson, demanding more out of the two leaders. Surely enough, the resilience from Izzo down the stretch led to an impressive collection of wins to finish the season.
Coach Izzo will lead his Spartans against Georgia in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday. Tom Izzo's team is seeded seventh and if it were to take down tenth seeded Georgia, it would move on to face highly-favored Virginia in the second round (but you never know, Belmont is good too). Michigan State outlasted the one seed Virginia last year in the Sweet 16, and an intriguing rematch could be at hand.
Never doubt Coach Izzo in March. Never.