How big will the 2011-12 Spartans footprint be?
Tom Izzo loves the term ‘footprints’ when he refers to the success and accomplishments of his teams.
After the Spartans beat No. 1 Wisconsin in 2007, Izzo said this: “I’ve told our kids every class has to leave a footprint in the sand here, and this is the first MSU team ever to beat a number one team at home. I’d say they’ve got themselves a footprint.”
Well, this 2011-12 team has a chance to leave a really, really big footprint on the history this program.
It starts with the Spartans game against Ohio State on Sunday.
MSU already has clinched a share of the Big Ten title, but Izzo made it very clear that sharing a title is not what he is interested in — he wants the title outright.
As do seniors Draymond Green and Austin Thornton, who with a win against Ohio State would become the only two players in MSU history to win two outright conference championships.
A win will get them there, but it will take some adjustments and the reawakening of the heart this team has shown through most of the season.
A thought in my mind the past few games — excluding Nebraska (they have a basketball team?) — since the last meeting with the Buckeyes is has this team started to peak too early?
A trademark of an Izzo-coached team is peaking in or around the NCAA Tournament. But lately, specifically against Indiana and Minnesota, the Spartans are lacking the same passion and hard-nosed attitude. They were outrebounded in both games and, if not for a late surge against the Golden Gophers, played lackluster basketball.
At Indiana last week, the Spartans came out as flat as a can of Sprite left open for a month and suffered their worst defeat of the season. That was a game that could have clinched the Big Ten title outright, but instead, they either chose to make it more interesting or just forgot what was at stake.
That isn’t what makes footprints, that is what makes headaches.
This is what makes footprints …
The hunger of Drew Neitzel is clear. The yearning of the fans is clear. Everyone involved wanted that win.
This team needs to get back to its state of hunger and yearning and longing for the win. Winning is not a God-given right, it is earned — as is the footprint this team will leave.
“We want to earn something our way,” Izzo said (before MSU’s loss to Indiana). “The Michigan State way. We want to earn something that, I constantly talk about banners and footprints, and doing something that separates you from someone else.”
The time to shine comes now and it starts against Ohio State and carries through the Big Ten Tournament and into the NCAA Tournament.
How big of a footprint does this team want to leave? We are about to find out.