Izzo: "Big Ten season is gonna be a grind..."

Izzo: "Big Ten season is gonna be a grind..."

Basketball

Izzo: "Big Ten season is gonna be a grind..."

The Spartans have three more non-conference tuneups over the next couple of weeks before the Big Ten season kicks in for real. Izzo knows it better than anyone else – the conference slate is going to be a grind every step of the way.

 Contact @crowleysullivan

I’ve said this numerous times when seated at a table in a tavern with other armchair quarterbacks:

For many years, The Experts have spoken of how hard it is for SEC football teams to play in all of the hostile environments that are filled with the crazed SEC football fans that make life very difficult for opposing teams.

Meanwhile, The Experts don’t say enough about how that’s been the case across Big Ten campuses throughout every basketball season dating back to when the SEC’s basketball “tradition” consisted of Adolph Rupp’s teams and nothing else.

Traveling to play the Gophers in The Barn in February is like going in for a prostate exam.

Going up against the Indiana Hoosiers at Assembly Hall in Bloomington makes a football team’s visit to Mississippi State look and feel like a trip to a Build-A-Bear store in cozy mall.

This is not meant to take anything away from what Villanova has accomplished over the recent years – but has that program ever played even once at Mackey Arena on a late January night?

This isn’t to make an argument that the Big Ten has the “best” college basketball conference – although we may attempt to make that argument as the season rolls on.

But the grind and brutal nature of the schedule itself – no matter how many Big Ten teams may or may not be Final Four contenders – makes for as challenging of a two+ month stretch as there is in college basketball.

In speaking with the media on Monday, Tom Izzo spoke of how his team has fought through a very tough period that consisted of 6 games (5 of which were on the road) in 17 days.

The Spartans showed some very real mental and physical toughness in achieving an 8-2 record with the benefit of having battled in some raucous arenas against some tough teams.

But Izzo almost looked and sounded like a guy gearing up to head back into the ring against Apollo Creed once again when he said, with a bit of a deep breath after alluding to his sense that Cassius Winston might have been out of gas at Florida, “The Big Ten season is going to be a grind.”

Consider the way the Big Ten has taken up quite a bit of real estate in the Top 25 rankings.

At the time of my basement typing right now, the Big Ten is represented this way in the rankings:

#5 Michigan – John Beilein has his team looking like a national title contender.  They’ll probably be up for the game at Crisler Center Arena Gymnasium on February 24th.

#12/#16 Wisconsin – the Badgers are about as under-the-radar as any team in the nation right now and if any program outside of the Big Ten wants to pay a visit to Madison this coming February 12th, please feel free to give it a try.

#19/#17 Ohio State – Chris Holtmann appears to have gotten the Buckeyes right back into the business of being a Big Ten and national contender and Columbus isn’t just a whacko environment in football.

#22 Iowa – the Hawkeyes will be ready for a rematch with the Spartans when Michigan State travels to Iowa City on January 24th.

#25 Indiana – Archie Miller already is whipping the Hoosiers back into shape and it wouldn’t even matter if IU was winless when the Spartans head to Bloomington on March 2nd since Assembly Hall is among the toughest places to play in the nation and has been so forever.

Purdue, Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska – trips to these places aren’t exactly like grammar school field trips to the museum.

Izzo’s right – the Big Ten season is going to be a grind.

The coaches in the conference make up the best batch of coaches of any conference from top to bottom.

The arenas are jammed every single night no matter what the home team’s record is and the crowds are insane.

And this year – as is the case nearly every year – there is a handful of teams that have reason to think they can win the conference championship and then make a deep run in March.

Izzo has a couple of weeks here that include final exams for his guys, a few winnable games (Green Bay, Oakland, and Northern Illinois all at home), and the chance to get his guys some rest while improving in some of the key areas he’s identified.

If anyone’s ever seen the movie “All The President’s Men,” maybe you’ll remember one of the final scenes.

Jason Robards plays Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee and Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman play the roles of Woodward and Bernstein and the two have come to Bradlee’s house to talk about how Deep Throat has told them that lives are in danger and “everyone’s involved.”

Bradlee says this as the two pup reporters are standing there wondering what they’re supposed to do next.

Bradlee: “You guys are probably pretty tired, right? Well, you should be.  Go on home.  Get a nice, hot bath.  Rest up.  Fifteen minutes.  Then get your asses back in gear.  We’re under a lot of pressure you know – and you put us there……….Nothing’s riding on this except the….First Amendment of the Constitution, the freedom of the press, and maybe, the future of the country.  Not that any of that matters.  But if you guys f–k up again, I’m gonna get mad…………..Goodnight.”

Woodward and Bernstein got their rest and the rest is history.

Izzo doesn’t look or sound much like Ben Bradlee – but his message to his players is somewhat similar, except for the fact that the Spartans’ ability to win the Big Ten, get to the Final Four, and win another national championship doesn’t quite impact the First Amendment, the freedom of the press, or the future of the country.

But the stakes are almost that important.

 

Latest

More SpartansWire
Home