Hoopraker discusses the “Excellence Problem” that causes us Spartan fans to lament the performance of a team that stands at 20-3. The post is an excellent commentary on the Spartan condition. It includes this paragraph on Izzo’s worldview:
The buzzword Izzo trumpets year in and year out as the difference between his greatest teams and his merely great ones is toughness. It is toughness that gets teams through bad shooting nights, that allows a team to overcome bad officiating or an unfavorable turnover margin and escape with wins. And while his upperclassmen already have a molecular understanding of Izzo’s demand for mettle and effort, his first-year players are still absorbing some of these lessons and have exhibited lapses, especially on the less glamorous defensive end.
I was thinking the other day, the one problem with Izzo’s emphasis on “toughness” is that the standard for measuring toughness will always be the Smith/Cleaves/Bell/Peterson/Hutson group. And, quite frankly, I don’t think any group of basketball players–let alone another MSU team–will ever approach the level of physical and mental toughness that group possessed. That team could simply will its way to a win.
Certainly, Izzo should continue to coach MSU according to the style that’s produced tremendous results over the last decade. But he should also guard against holding his players to an unrealistic standard at the expense of things like creativity and adaptability.
In any event, the Spartans will certainly need to display some toughness tonight, as they enter Mackey Arena to play in front of what will certainly be a pumped-up Boilermaker crowd.
Update: Grinczel has a piece up on toughness, too. Another good read. The topic of measuring “toughness” probably deserves a longer Spartans Weblog post at some point in the near future.