Izzo acknowledges Spartans joining elite company
LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- For a long time, Tom Izzo has said a school has to win consistently over a period of years to be considered a true power.
With the Spartans getting ready this week to make their third straight trip to the Final Four in the NCAA championship, Izzo grudgingly conceded Monday that Michigan State is on the verge of joining that fraternity of juggernauts.
"We're in a more quick-fix generation, and we've accomplished enough that in the minds of some people we've become an elite program," he said. But he cautioned a lot more wins are needed before his name can join those of legendary college basketball coaches such as John Wooden and Duke's Mike Krzyzewski.
"If we're going to go where there those guys have gone, we'd better win a lot more championships," Izzo said.
Michigan State, the defending NCAA champion, gets a chance to try for two in a row in the days ahead. The Spartans (28-4) play No. 1 Arizona (27-7) on Saturday in the semifinals at the Metrodome in Minneapolis.
If they survive that game, in which they're narrowly favored, the Spartans play the winner of the Duke-Maryland contest in the championship game Monday night.
Michigan State reached the semifinals by downing Temple on Sunday, 69-62, in the South Regional Final. Arizona defeated Illinois, 87-81.
Michigan State became the ninth school to reach the Final Four for at least three straight seasons. The last was Kentucky in 1996-98.
Izzo has the same wary optimism that his team will continue its talented play next season as he has for its stature among the nation's basketball elite. He warned that he's still paying too much attention to his current team to worry much about next year.
But asked if Michigan State will be strong again next year, he replied: "I definitely think we can have a very good basketball team next year. We have a lot of guys coming back."
Although Izzo said he won't have any standouts from this year's team returning as seniors, he added not having a star can be an advantage.
"With this team there's no head," he said of the Spartans, who have compiled their string of NCAA victories with a varied attack that has brought 21 points from senior Charlie Bell on one night, 19 points from senior David Thomas on another. "It's a headless body, which sounds bad but it's kind of good. You can cut off the head and the rest works."
Izzo said senior forward Andre Hutson has emerged as "kind of our best all-around player. ... He's one of my smartest players and one of my toughest players."
Hutson scored 11 points Sunday in the Spartans' win over Temple, behind Thomas' 19 points. Gilbert Arenas led Arizona with 21 points Sunday, 18 in the first half, in downing Illinois.