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John U. Bacon on Michigan State's spot in the Sweet 16

Mar 26, 2015

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo
Credit MGoBlog on Flickr / Flickr

On Friday night Michigan State faces Oklahoma in the Sweet 16 portion of the NCAA March Madness. It's Michigan State's seventh Sweet 16 in eight seasons.

"I hope Michigan State fans appreciate what they're enjoying now because this is a unique coach at a unique time to say the least," Michigan Radio sports commentator John U. Bacon says.

This week FiveThirtyEight named Spartan coach Tom Izzo the "Best March Madness coach in modern NCAA tournament history – by far."

Izzo has defied odds to lead the Spartans to victory in 45 March Madness games even though they were only predicted to win 30 based on their seed and competitor according to Bacon. That's 50% more than he should have.

So how does Izzo do it?

Bacon says it comes from a combination of his dedication to scheduling tough, non-conference competition, recruiting players who can perform during high-pressure games and his simultaneous management of the bench, clock, and general game situations.

"I can't recall the last time I saw a State team come out flat in March Madness; maybe I've never seen it," Bacon says.

But Bacon’s prediction last week for the Spartan’s weakness has also been proven to be true. The team made only 20 out of their 33 free throw attempts, and Bacon still believes this could be the team’s downfall.

This year is a landmark for Michigan State athletics. 2015 marks the fourth consecutive year its basketball team has made the Sweet 16 and the football team has competed in post season bowl game.

One the other hand, Michigan has had a tough year.  It’s the first time since 1973 the school's hockey, basketball or football team hasn’t competed in the postseason.

Bacon says Wolverine fans are ready to forget about this season and are trying to be optimistic about the fall.

"Right now almost all Michigan fans' focus is on Jim Harbaugh and September. So that's how far away their hopes and dreams are,” Bacon says.