March 17, 2012

Izzo's one-day prep process well under way

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Tom Izzo likes to tell his players that if they can win game one of an NCAA Tournament weekend, the Michigan State coaches will get them through game two.

Six-teen out of 19 times, Izzo's words have been prophetic. Woven into Izzo's March wizardry is the fact that on one day of preparation for an NCAA Tournament game, there are few who can match Izzo's 16-3 rate of success in that department.

That trend will be put to test again at 2:45 p.m. on Sunday when Michigan State (28-7) plays Saint Louis (26-7) at Nationwide Arena in the third round of the NCAA Tournament.

Izzo's one-day preparation process began after midnight, early Saturday morning, shortly after the players showered and had a post-game meal following the Spartans' 89-67 victory over LIU Brooklyn, a game which ended at about 11:30 p.m. late Friday night.

"We started last night at 12:30, quarter to 1:00, whenever we got home (to the hotel)," Izzo said during Saturday's late-afternoon press conference. "I always try to put them to bed with that next team on their mind. And usually that one is just a film session."

Several Saint Louis films were cut, edited and categorized by Izzo's video staff before the team ever left East Lansing. Izzo and his staff also watched Saint Louis film, as well as Memphis film, before leaving for Columbus.

It was already determined more than a day in advance which Saint Louis film clips would be viewed by the players before they went to bed on Friday night, if MSU beat LIU Brooklyn and if Saint Louis beat Memphis. If Memphis had won, obviously, some Memphis film clips would have been ready for the players before they retired late Friday night (actually early Saturday morning).

Izzo and his staff put together a progression of film clips and concepts that they will want their players to master by early Sunday afternoon. It begins with base layers of information. From there, other scouting concepts are added.

Late Friday night/early Saturday morning, the base layers were put in place.

"Last night we (gave our players) a little bit of personnel (scouting info) and a little bit of maybe their top 10 plays that they (Saint Louis) run," Izzo said. "And then this morning we let them sleep in until 9:30 or 10:00, and then we had a film session again, then a walkthrough of the plays we saw in the film session."

Saint Louis gives Michigan State a deeper, more complicated volume of plays, call-outs and tendencies to prepare for. It will be one of the more intricate, exhaustive one-day preps of Izzo's career.

"On a team like Saint Louis, who runs so many different sets, we tried to not put them all in at once because it's beating a dead horse," Izzo said. "Then we ate breakfast.�

"And then we had another 20'minute one after."

Then it was time to breathe and regenerate a little bit.

A little bit.

"I let them go spend some time with their family," Izzo said. "Then we had a session at 3:00 before we came here (for the press conference), about a 15'minute film session, 15'minute walkthrough.

"And now we'll have our (media) thing here.�And tonight we'll have a little film session, a snack.� Another walkthrough probably tomorrow morning before breakfast."

Izzo is a believer that several short-session crams are the best way to get players to absorb and retain information.

"They're just 15', 20'minute deals," he said. "As we pick it up better, they know. And we add a few things and add the out of bounds plays later as we go."

Izzo didn't borrow or steal his one-day prep itinerary from other coaches. Most of what he does now in a one-day NCAA Tournament prep is derived from the very first time he orchestrated one, when the No. 5-seeded Spartans "upset" No. 4-seeded Princeton in the second round of the 1998 NCAA Tournament. That was Izzo's first NCAA Tournament. After containing Bill Carmody's highly-regarded Princeton offense, and even managing to burn Princeton with a couple of back-door lay-ups, Izzo was 1-0 in one-day preps.

The next year, he went 2-0 in one-day preps en route to his first Final Four.

The following year, he went 3-0 and won the National Championship.

"It's just the way we've done it," Izzo said. "It's worked pretty well for us."�

Izzo's approach seems to give Spartan players a feeling that they will get an edge from their coaching staff.

"Just the way he prepares," said Draymond Green. "He don't sleep."

That apparently is not an exaggeration.

"And if he's not sleeping, his assistants aren't sleeping," Green said.

Well actually, Dane Fife admitted that he got away for a three-hour snooze. That's how he functions. But Izzo? He is some sort of fuel hybrid. Fife found him still hard at work early this morning, never having gone to bed, and still yet strangely energized.

"I think they have us well prepared, have the teams well scouted out and put us in the best position to win," Green said. "And he'll annoy us so much through the day that when you get to playing the next team, you want to beat them anyway because he made you watch so much film, he made you go through so many walk-throughs."

Advancing to the NCAA Tournament not a work-vacation for players. It is not a reward for a good season. It's the final set of tests that will determine exactly how successful the 2011-12 team actually will turn out to be, and how it will be remembered.

"Some people may take the time out, they got this day off to rest, to get out with your families, do things with your families, go to the mall, do all those different things, as opposed to focusing on what you came here for and the goal," Green said. "And I think Coach does a great job of really enforcing in us what's important while we're here."

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