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Michigan State student section fools Columbia twice to help avoid upset

Michigan-State-studentsA little word of advice for any team that has road game against Michigan State this year — ignore the student section.

On Friday night, No. 2 Michigan State nearly suffered an unexpected loss to Columbia. The Spartans found themselves trying to protect a two-point lead late in the second half when they received a major boost from their student section, better known as the Izzone. On back-to-back Columbia possessions, the Michigan State students forced turnovers by intentionally mistiming their shot clock countdown to dupe the opposition.

The genius of it is that the Spartans fans mix it up. Sometimes, they starting counting down and force an early shot by getting to zero when there are actually still a few seconds remaining on the clock. Other times, they fool opponents into thinking there is more time left on the clock by starting the countdown a few seconds late.

“They’re the best-coached fans I’ve ever seen,” Columbia coach Kyle Smith said after the game, via MLive.com’s Diamond Leung. “They duped us. They duped us on the backwards count or whatever. I think my one guy had a brain freeze because he was right in front of me, and there was like four (seconds) on the clock, and I’m like, ‘Take a look.’”

Michigan state ended up winning the game 62-53, and Tom Izzo felt that the students deserved more credit than the players.

“The Izzone was a lot more aggressive than the players on the floor, so I thought they did a hell of a job tonight,” the Spartans coach said. “It’s funny when that happened I almost got up and thanked them, but I thought didn’t want to embarrass anybody. I’ve always said that if we could get that group back to where they win a couple games for us…tonight it might have been one of them.”

Players are taught to block out crowd noise, but we know that is easier said than done. Kudos to the Michigan State student section for taking the concept of home court advantage to the next level.

H/T The Dagger

Tom Izzo says his son picked Duke to beat Michigan State

Tom Izzo’s 13-year-old son Steven is not afraid to tell it like it is. Those of us who filled out an NCAA Tournament bracket know that part of the process requires making difficult decisions. Most of you would expect Steven Izzo to pick Michigan State to win the national championship this season, but his bracket says differently.

Earlier this week, Tom Izzo told ESPN’s Mike and Mike in the Morning that his son picked Duke to prevail over the Spartans in their Sweet 16 match-up on Friday.

“My 13-year-old has all the bracket done and he’s got Michigan State and Duke,” Izzo explained. “He didn’t finish the rest of the bracket so I said, ‘Steven, what are you doing?’ He says, ‘Well Dad, I’m just not sure on this game.’ I said, ‘You know what, son? You’ve got to pick with your head, not your heart.’ The damn kid picked Duke!”

“My son’s problem is whether he ever eats at my house again. He’s a big fan of Coach K’s, so I’ve got real problems at my house.”

We all have our teams that we feel good about and not so good about. Apparently Michigan State falls under the latter category for Steven Izzo. On Tuesday, Izzo told CBS Sports Radio’s The Morning Show (via MLive.com) that his son picked Louisville — not Duke — to win the East Region. Steven himself also told CBSSports.com’s Jeff Goodman earlier this month that he picked Miami to win the whole thing.

Does this kid have Division-1 coach written all over him or what? Like his old man, who has made certain comments that show us he is not afraid to speak his mind, Steven is clearly not afraid of making the unpopular decision. The good news is if Michigan State loses on Friday, at least someone in the Izzo household will be winning.

H/T The Dagger

Tom Izzo loved that his players got into a towel fight in team huddle (Video)

Derrick Nix towelMichigan State looked like it had some chemistry problems when Derrick Nix and Keith Appling got into a towel fight in a team huddle Saturday during the Spartans’ 70-48 win over Memphis, but coach Tom Izzo says he loved it.

“Oh it’s great, isn’t it?” Izzo responded when asked about the incident by CBS’ Rachel Nichols after the game. “It reminds me of [Mateen] Cleaves and them. It’s better when your team’s getting a little feisty a little bit. Keith didn’t want to take anything from Nix and he told him, so, that’s all good.”

Nichols pointed out that Izzo didn’t look too happy about the fighting at the time, but Izzo insisted it wasn’t a bad thing.

“Trust me, in my program, that’s all good. They got after it a little bit and I kind of enjoyed it. That’s the way we are. We’re a blue-collar group, and that’s the way we play.”

When Izzo mentioned “Cleaves and them,” he was referring to his 1999-2000 team that won the national championship. They were led by Cleaves, then a senior, who had a tough, take-charge type of mentality. That team also featured the “Flintstones,” which was comprised of Cleaves, Charlie Bell, and Morris Peterson (Antonio Smith had graduated), all of whom grew up playing ball together in Flint, Mich. Nix and Appling live together and played together at Detroit Pershing in high school.

In postgame comments shared by MLive.com, both Appling and Nix said there is nothing but love between them, and that that sort of petty fighting is typical. We encourage you to follow that link to read more about the relationship between Appling and Nix.

Michigan fans decorate Michigan State statue in Valparaiso gear? (Picture)

Michigan State and Michigan would not play each other in the NCAA Tournament unless both teams advanced to the finals, but that doesn’t mean their fans aren’t paying attention to one another. The Spartans and the Wolverines are playing at the same venue in the opening round, which has led to some creativity.

On Wednesday, we told you how Michigan State fans have been buying South Dakota gear in anticipation of the Jackrabbits’ first-round game against Michigan. The following photo, which was posted on Reddit Thursday morning, appears to show that Wolverines fans wasted no time firing back.

Valparaiso-gear-Michigan-State-statue

According to various people on Reddit and Twitter, the Sparty statue on Michigan State’s campus has been decked out with Valparaiso gear. Michigan State is facing Valparaiso in the first round.

There’s no way of knowing for sure if it was Michigan fans who did the vandalizing, but they’re certainly the prime suspects. The Spartans and the Wolverines may be five wins away from a potential meeting, but the back-and-forth we have seen before the tournament reminds us of just how intense the rivalry is between the two schools.

H/T SI.com’s Extra Mustard

Michigan State Got Help from the Refs

As good of a program as Michigan State is, you figure they wouldn’t need much help to take care of the second place team from the WAC — one that went 22-12 in the regular season. That wasn’t the case on Friday night when Michigan State never held more than a four point lead in the final 10 minutes of their game with New Mexico State. Things were interesting down the stretch with the Spartans pulling it out 70-67. The outcome would have been more in question had Michigan State not received favorable and surprising calls from the refs. The foul disparity over the final seven minutes in the game was 7-3 in favor of Michigan State. Several of the calls on New Mexico State were ticky-tacky hand checking fouls including the two called on Jahmar Young that fouled him out of the game. Any coincidence Young is New Mexico State’s highest scorer? Probably not.

It also was quite odd that the refs called a lane violation on New Mexico State on Raymar Morgan’s second free throw attempt with 20 seconds left (pictured). Morgan missed the free throw but the violation allowed him to shoot again. He made the shot which put the Spartans up 70-67. The second chance make forced the Aggies to take a low percentage three pointer to tie instead of a higher-percentage shot in the paint. They missed a couple of desperation heaves and lost the game. New Mexico State coach Marvin Menzies knows they got screwed: “You know, I wish [the lane violation] would have gone uncalled in this particular instance. In Ray’s opinion, he felt he should call it. We would have had a much different approach to the last few seconds. I think I would have had something designed to get us to the foul line at least.” I’m not saying New Mexico State would have won the game, I just wish it were called more evenly down the stretch.

Michigan State’s Final Four Appearance Boosts the State and Economy

When Michigan State won its Elite Eight matchup on Sunday against Louisville, coach Tom Izzo said that he hoped the team’s victory would be a glimmer of hope in what’s been a difficult year for the state. He said he hoped the fans could rally around the success of the team to restore some happiness and pride in the community. It makes you think that the Final Four being held in Detroit couldn’t be happening at a better time and that it was almost imperative for the Spartans to make it to Ford Field. With the condition of the automotive industry, the state will now receive a significant boost in the form of tourism for the upcoming weekend. Additionally, Sports by Brooks points out that ticket prices will likely ascend because of the Spartans’ presence in the Final Four. As Darren Rovell tells it:

StubHub spokesman Sean Pate told me that the Spartans getting in should be worth at least a $50 increase in each ticket sold on the site.

Pate says that, thanks to the close proximity to their East Lansing campus, MSU fans will be willing to invest more in a ticket since many don’t have to worry about booking a plane flight.

I hope that doesn’t mean more debt-spending for folks, but if people get out there with positive thoughts and start opening up the pocket books the way they used to, it will be good for everyone. And if the folks from Carolina, the Northeast, and Philly make their way to Michigan, it could serve as a nice stimulus package for an economy that needs it so badly. All those times Tom Izzo was rumored to take a job elsewhere (Kentucky, anyone?), maybe he never left because he knew the people of Michigan needed him more than anyone else (and MSU knew that too, that’s why they paid him top dollar). I feel the same way about the town of Memphis and John Calipari, but it doesn’t seem like that’s going to stop him as of now.

Izzo Kicks His Players Out of New Locker Room for Loss

In case you missed it over the weekend, Michigan State lost an exhibition game to Grand Valley State. Now exhibitions are supposed to be games that your team dominates and “exhibits” the talent on the team. Not the case with Michigan State. As you may have guessed, coach Tom Izzo did not take to the loss too well.

After the loss, Izzo decided to temporarily kick the players out of their brand-new locker room. Members of the media got to see the Spartans’ new digs after the game and they look better than some NBA locker rooms, complete with comfortable couches, a high-tech television with a video-game system and a kitchen area.

“I just look at that as, you earn the right to have something that nice, and we didn’t earn the right,” Izzo said. “I just said that, make sure that everything including the toothbrushes are out of there.”

Over the last few days, players have dressed in the weight room, or in hallways. Izzo said he’ll decide when to let them back in based on their practice or game-time performance.

That is some effed up crap right there. Wonder if any stragglers are going to complain about sexual harassment in the halls. I have to say however, that I love Izzo’s attitude here. If there was any question as to why Izzo’s teams are so successful year in and year out, I think we just answered it.