Michigan State coach Tom Izzo was happy to see his team win the Big Ten tournament this past weekend, but accomplishing his other goal was even more important. The Spartans needed to play three games in Indianapolis for the simple reason of playing more games, improving as a unit, making progress. They accomplished the goals. But there are, of course, no delusions of grandeur as No. 4 seed Michigan State (26-8) prepares to take on No. 13 seed Delaware Thursday in the second round of the NCAA tournament in Spokane, Wash. (4:40 p.m., TNT). "We talked about turnovers because we had three games in a row with 16. We talked about our defense. We talked about getting some of our swagger back," Izzo said. "I'd say in those three areas, we hit a home run (last weekend). We did do those three things. "Now the goal will be -- can we consistently do them and keep building on it and getting better? Because we're still a work in progress. As much gratification as I saw in the weekend, there's still a lot of work to be done, trust me, as far as where we are and where we need to be." The biggest area of improvement in the conference tournament was Michigan State's defense. The Spartans held their three Big Ten Tournament opponents -- including top 12 teams Wisconsin and Michigan -- to just 38.4 percent shooting. They finished the weekend by holding the Wolverines' sharp-shooting offense to just 55 points and 31.5 percent shooting, including an ungenerous 26.1 percent from 3-point range. In the final five games of the regular season -- as it adjusted to having its full lineup back for the first time in months -- Michigan State had allowed opponents to shoot 48 percent from the field. The improvement in the conference tournament is a promising development for the Spartans, as Delaware will be bringing a high-flying offense with it to Veterans Memorial Arena. The Blue Hens (25-9) average 79.5 points per game -- 24th-best in the nation. "Everybody talks about your rhythm and chemistry on the offensive end," said Izzo, who had former NBA player Steve Kerr speak to the team over the weekend. "He said, 'When I think back, playing in pro ball and everything, they forget that happens on the defensive end, too.'"
Michigan State's defense improving at right time with Blue Hens flying its way
Michigan Live | Mar 19