Tom Izzo The Best Coach In NCAA Basketball Currently?

Is Tom Izzo The Best College Basketball Coach In The Game Right Now? Sure Looks Like It.

3/31/09 in NCAABB   |   100%InjuryRate   |   1283 respect

After Michigan State's stunning 64-52 win over the high-powered Louisville Cardinals this weekend, attention began to rightfully turn to head coach Tom Izzo. Some called the win Izzo's defining moment as a coach, and that he had cemented his legacy as one of the best college coaches ever.

Personally speaking, I can't remember the last time I saw a coach's game plan run to such perfection. The fact that Izzo was able to do this against a team coached by Rick Pitino - who's a pretty good coach in his own right - only heightened the impressiveness of the victory.

But just how good is Izzo? While his career is far from over, we can at least take a look at how he fares in comparison to his contemporaries.

The Big Lead took the time to break down how a number of programs have performed in the NCAA Tournament in the last decade, and suddenly the case for Izzo being the best current coach in the game makes a lot of sense.

Here's what Izzo's Spartans have done Tourney-wise in the last 10 years:

10-10 Tourney trips, 6 Sweet 16s, 4 Final Fours, 1 title

The only other major programs that have had a perfect Tourney trip record in the last 10 years are Kansas and Duke. Here's how they fared across the board over the last decade.

Kansas: 10-10 tourney trips, 7 Sweet 16s, 3 Final Fours, 1 title
Duke: 10-10 tourney trips, 7 Sweet 16s, 2 Final Fours, 1 title

It is important to note that Kansas has been coached by Roy Williams and Bill Self over the last decade. And while Roy Williams individually has gone 10-10 in Tourney trips with 7 Sweet 16s, 4 Final Fours, and 1 championship in the last decade, he's been regarded more as a coach who's failed to win champships that he should have won, rather than someone who has gotten the most out of his teams. How many times was Kansas supposed to win it all while Williams was there? At least 3 or 4 times.

If you're still unsure about Izzo's success, take a look at how these other major programs - that you'd likely consider upon initial thought as being better than Michigan State - have done in the last decade.

Connecticut - 8-10 tourney trips, 5 Sweet 16s, 2 Final Fours, 1 title
Florida - 8-10 tourney trips, 4 Sweet 16s, 3 Final Fours, 2 titles
UCLA - 8-10 tourney trips, 6 Sweet 16s, 3 Final Fours, 0 titles
North Carolina - 8-10 tourney trips, 5 Sweet 16s, 4 Final Fours, 1 title

I definitely think there's something to be said for Billy Donovan winning two titles with Florida - back-to-back no less - but the drop off after those championships has been rather severe, as Florida hasn't made the Tourney since.

When you get right down to it, Izzo's performance at Michigan State has been consistently impressive. Even more remarkable is that Izzo has turned the program from being known for one incredible season (Magic Johnson's 1979 championship) into a perennial powerhouse. Seriously, aside from Magic's two seasons in East Lansing, Michigan State has almost no significant NCAA Tourney record to speak of before Izzo.

So is Izzo the best in the game right now? I'd have to say so.
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4/1/09   |   mwillie1   |   19 respect

If Izzo isn't the best overall coach, he is definately the best coach over a 48 hour period in preparing his team for the next opponent.  Him and his assistant coaches do a hell of a job getting ready.  Your starting to see his assistants grabbing many head coaching jobs.  Tom Crean (Indiana), Stan Heath (South Florida), Brian Gregory (Dayton), Doug Wojcik (Tulsa) and Jim Boylen (Utah)

3/31/09   |   Boli   |   3 respect

The cool thing about Tom Izzo is that he doesn't always get the best players, since the best players usually flock to the teams perceived to be the best in the nation. Izzo works with the players he manages to get and turns them into a great team. He does more with less than guys like Coach K.

3/31/09   |   MarkTheShark   |   590 respect

Adam wrote:
Jay Wright is definitely the most underrated coach. 

How many championships and Final Four appearances for Mr. Wright?

3/31/09   |   Adam

Jay Wright is definitely the most underrated coach. 

3/31/09   |   spartymon   |   1231 respect

(Edited by spartymon)

Excellent post!

You certainly will not get any argument from most of us here in East Lansing.   Maybe the rest of the nation is starting to realize what has been known around here for a long time - Tom Izzo is a helluva coach!

Izzo has had a couple of flops in the tournament (2002 loss vs NC State and 2004 loss vs Nevada), but in a big game with little time to prepare, there is nobody else that I would want running my team.   I sure hope the national experts don't jump on the MSU bandwagon as Tom Izzo and the Spartans always seem to be at their best when nobody gives them a chance.

Win or lose this weekend, Tom Izzo will still be considered the best college coach in my book.

GO GREEN!!!   BEAT UCONN!!!

3/31/09   |   raptrbreth   |   19 respect

huskerdoug2009 wrote:
Agree.  That is why I was replying to the fan who said they couldn't understand why the Big 10 wasn't considered Top Tier.  To me the Big 10 /Big East aren't that much different from each other.  That's why I love to watch them.  They play physical on both offense and defense, rebound like Jenny Craig failures going after the last donut, and forget the lost art of the mid-range jumper they usually excel at the other even bigger lost art of making a free throw at least once in a half.

Well except IU this year.

3/31/09   |   huskerdoug2009   |   2745 respect

wrote:
I would think that a coach who can have his team survive the brutal play that is the Big 10 and THEN changes and competes against the other style, makes him an even smarter coach. He can win against both styles. That is critical for success in the Big Dance.
(Edited by huskerdoug2009)

Agree.  That is why I was replying to the fan who said they couldn't understand why the Big 10 wasn't considered Top Tier.  To me the Big 10 /Big East aren't that much different from each other.  That's why I love to watch them.  They play physical on both offense and defense, rebound like Jenny Craig failures going after the last donut, and forget the lost art of the mid-range jumper they usually excel at the other even bigger lost art of making a free throw at least once in a half.

3/31/09   |   raptrbreth   |   19 respect

As an IU fan I should dislike MSU, but I can't.  Coach Izzo is what all coaches should aspire to.  Not to mention that he helped Coach Crean.

3/31/09   |   jswol54   |   20819 respect

wrote:
I would think that a coach who can have his team survive the brutal play that is the Big 10 and THEN changes and competes against the other style, makes him an even smarter coach. He can win against both styles. That is critical for success in the Big Dance.

Not to mention the brutal non-conference schedule MSU has every year. 

3/31/09   |   jjh8857   |   315 respect

Nice post.  I think Izzo does a great job year in & year out & here in the South he doesn't get near the credit he should get.

3/31/09   |   Illini_Pat

Heyhey1970 wrote:
I understand that the Big Ten didn't have a handful of "great" teams.  But that's only true of the Big East this year.  Despite the ESPN blather, only North Carolina showed anything at all from the ACC for example.  I don't see how the Big Ten could be seen as less than a "top tier" conference when 7 teams made the tournament. 

this it typical big ten trashing made popular bye espn and the stupid bigten acc challenge. ive always wondered who makes those match ups anyway... and yes izzo is a stud and one of the greatest game plan coaches ive ever watched his game plans for every team he plays are always on point to me that is why he is one of the best coaches currently but not the single best coach there are some very very good coaches currently you honestly cant forget Weber at Illinois he has no studs on the team and is able to keep winning his record at illinois is astranomical and the turn around from last year thats what legends are made of!!!

3/31/09   |   huskerdoug2009   |   2745 respect

Heyhey1970 wrote:
I understand that the Big Ten didn't have a handful of "great" teams.  But that's only true of the Big East this year.  Despite the ESPN blather, only North Carolina showed anything at all from the ACC for example.  I don't see how the Big Ten could be seen as less than a "top tier" conference when 7 teams made the tournament. 

I would say most of today's basketball fans don't appreciate the Big 10 because it doesn't remind them of the NBA.  Their's actually quite a bit of defense played in the Big 10 and the scores are usually in the 60's and 70's rather than 90's and 100's.  Most "experts" don't give them their do because they spend so much of the league conference schedule beating each other up, that their final records aren't as gaudy as other leagues.

3/31/09   |   DigitalSquire   |   1 respect

I think Izzo is the best Big 10 coach since Bobby Knight left for Tech.

3/31/09   |   Heyhey1970   |   194 respect

jswol54 wrote:
While I agree with your assessment, I do have to correct a few things.  Every four year player under Izzo will now have participated in a Final Four.  And it's now 5 FF's in 11 years, which is the most for any school in that span. 

I think Tom Izzo receives credit around the nation, but not the amount he deserves because the Big 10 as a whole isn't considered a top tier basketball conference, at least by the pundits at ESPIN.  I have learned that any Tom Izzo coached team has the ability to advance very far in March, and this current run is just another example of that.  The best part is that the majority of the roster grew up within a few hours of Ford Field.  That's good for the Big 10 and that's great for the midwest.  Go Green, Go White!

I understand that the Big Ten didn't have a handful of "great" teams.  But that's only true of the Big East this year.  Despite the ESPN blather, only North Carolina showed anything at all from the ACC for example.  I don't see how the Big Ten could be seen as less than a "top tier" conference when 7 teams made the tournament. 

3/31/09   |   MarkTheShark   |   590 respect

jswol54 wrote:
While I agree with your assessment, I do have to correct a few things.  Every four year player under Izzo will now have participated in a Final Four.  And it's now 5 FF's in 11 years, which is the most for any school in that span. 

I think Tom Izzo receives credit around the nation, but not the amount he deserves because the Big 10 as a whole isn't considered a top tier basketball conference, at least by the pundits at ESPIN.  I have learned that any Tom Izzo coached team has the ability to advance very far in March, and this current run is just another example of that.  The best part is that the majority of the roster grew up within a few hours of Ford Field.  That's good for the Big 10 and that's great for the midwest.  Go Green, Go White!

That's right FIVE trips to the FF for Izzo and the Spartans...Wow.

3/31/09   |   jswol54   |   20819 respect

Scott wrote:
Tom Izzo's teams may not always have the best talent nor are they the most attractive team to watch style wise but they definitely get the job done on a consistent basis.  Not only is 10 for 10 in tourney appearances with 4 Final Four's in 10 years impressive, but how about the stat where every class that Izzo has brought in during that time can lay claim to playing in at least one Final Four.  In this day and age with the parity in college basketball, that's quite an accomplishment.  I've always been a fan of Izzo and how he conducts himself and his program and I will be rooting for them this weekend

While I agree with your assessment, I do have to correct a few things.  Every four year player under Izzo will now have participated in a Final Four.  And it's now 5 FF's in 11 years, which is the most for any school in that span. 

I think Tom Izzo receives credit around the nation, but not the amount he deserves because the Big 10 as a whole isn't considered a top tier basketball conference, at least by the pundits at ESPIN.  I have learned that any Tom Izzo coached team has the ability to advance very far in March, and this current run is just another example of that.  The best part is that the majority of the roster grew up within a few hours of Ford Field.  That's good for the Big 10 and that's great for the midwest.  Go Green, Go White!

3/31/09   |   Big_Country78   |   38 respect

if the last decade has been the past 10 years 1999-2009 Uconn has had two titles in that span (1999 and 2004)

3/31/09   |   Big_Country78   |   38 respect

great article or whatever it is, thanks for the post.

Im a lil biased as i always root for the big ten, but good none the less.

3/31/09   |   Scott   |   49444 respect

Tom Izzo's teams may not always have the best talent nor are they the most attractive team to watch style wise but they definitely get the job done on a consistent basis.  Not only is 10 for 10 in tourney appearances with 4 Final Four's in 10 years impressive, but how about the stat where every class that Izzo has brought in during that time can lay claim to playing in at least one Final Four.  In this day and age with the parity in college basketball, that's quite an accomplishment.  I've always been a fan of Izzo and how he conducts himself and his program and I will be rooting for them this weekend

3/31/09   |   MarkTheShark   |   590 respect

Jrbucfan and I were JUST having this convo yesterday. Izzo is DEFINITELY the most under-rated coach in NCAA basketball.

3/31/09   |   NittanyJon   |   243 respect

(Edited by NittanyJon)

Tom Izzo is an awesome coach and a good guy. If Villanova does not win, I'd love to see him win another title. Although I am a UNC fan.

Also, anyone notice Mrs. Izzo?  I think she is a babe. Anyone agree?