“We devised a plan that we used when we played Princeton [in 1998] because it was such a hard second-day turnaround,” Izzo said. “We devised a plan where we have these little 20-minute meetings, film sessions. Even if we get back at 1:30 in the morning from our game, which has happened a few times, we always have a film session so they can go to bed on it.
“We have meetings, walk-throughs in hotels, a lot of things I learned from my football buddies. I listened to Magic [Johnson] talk about when they were in the playoffs and how they used courts laid down in hotel rooms. I think the reason we’ve had such good success is the players’ focus. I tell them, ‘You get me through the first game and I feel good that I can help get you through the second.’”
Izzo used — and got contributions from — 11 players in the semifinal victory over UConn Saturday. That is rare for any coach to do at this late stage in the season, but Izzo has found success in building his bench as the season progresses. It may come in extremely handy against a North Carolina team that can wear opponents down.
“For coach, when players do what you ask, players execute, players focus in and do the things you want done, I think he enjoys it more,” guard Travis Walton said. “Every player on this team has focused in to believe everything coach says.
“Coach Izzo has talked about how championship teams at this level are coached by the players. That has been the key to our run.”
Williams says Izzo’s teams are not difficult to prepare for. And he meant that in the nicest way.
“You’ve got to play your butt off,” he said. “I wish my teams would defend and rebound like Tom Izzo’s teams. I mean that sincerely. With Tommy, it’s a bring-your-lunch-pail kind of game.”
Izzo’s plan has worked against Kansas, Louisville and UConn. Now the Spartans face their biggest challenge.
The championship game offers two terrific coaches with two distinct philosophies. Only one gets to go home happy.
Duke coach said that after winning his second gold medal in men's basketball would be his Team USA finale. That may not be the case anymore.
Michigan St. vs. UNC: Who has the edge?
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