Izzo expects Spartans to show up - SWX Right Now-Sports for Spokane, CdA, Tri-Cities, WA

From The Spokesman-Review

Izzo expects Spartans to show up

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(Photo: Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review) (Photo: Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

John Blanchette
The Spokesman-Review

Twelve times Michigan State had been to the NCAA basketball tournament since Jud Heathcote tossed the keys to his protege Tom Izzo, and 12 times Jud had saddled up from his retirement camp in Spokane and ridden off to support the Spartans at their first-rounder.

Hartford, Milwaukee, Cleveland. Memphis and D.C. The short hop to Seattle and the long haul to Tampa. Dayton and Denver. Worcester and Winston-Salem.

Jud made them all, even when he was still on the mend from heart surgery. But he was going to have to miss No. 13 this year because of a personal commitment – he is delivering a eulogy Saturday at the funeral of lifetime friend Jim Slavin – until the bracketeers serendipitously intervened and sent the Spartans to Spokane, and even gave them a Friday tipoff against New Mexico State. So he could hardly contain himself when he rang up Izzo on Sunday.

"Just do me one favor," he asked. "Could you bring your whole team out here?"

His old boss' needle drew a laugh but no blood. Izzo saved that for Thursday, when he checked in at the Spokane Arena and opened up a vein.

He has won a national championship and taken the Spartans to four other Final Fours, but this year people think Izzo is coaching Team Dysfunction. He suspended guard Chris Allen for what turned out to be the team's only game in the Big Ten tournament. Korie Lucious missed a game for an academic issue, and Durrell Summers has found himself on the bench for assorted effort-related shortcomings. Even All-Big Ten guard Kalin Lucas was banished from practice and a start.

"We're not as smooth as I would like to be," Izzo admitted....


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