March 23, 2010

Izzo motivated by new set of challenges

EAST LANSING - Michigan State coach Tom Izzo has faced sentimental favorites and Cinderella teams in the NCAA Tournament on a number of occasions during his 13 consecutive trips to the NCAA tournament, but the veteran Spartan head coach has never gone into a Sweet Sixteen match-up with as many unknowns as this year.

Izzo and the Spartans must not only find a way to play without 2009 Big Ten Player of the year and two-time all-conference point guard Kalin Lucas, but the Spartans are also preparing for ninth-seeded Northern Iowa not knowing how much they will be able to get out of starters Chris Allen and Delvon Roe.

Allen played just four minutes against Maryland, which is miraculous considering the Spartans top perimeter defender could not even walk the previous evening after severely bruising his arch during Michigan State's first-round win over New Mexico State. Roe played as many minutes as he could stand the pain in his knee, which will require surgery in the post-season, but Izzo does not know how many more minutes that sophomore from Ohio can give him.

Izzo said that expects both Roe and Allen to play. The extent to which the two Spartans starters can go and how effective they can be on the court will largely dictate what Michigan State is able to do against Northern Iowa.

If Roe and Allen can play a good chunk of minutes, the Spartans will probably try and run a little bit against the Missouri Valley Conference champions, whose tournament run includes a two-point win over UNLV and the season's biggest upset in a win over top-seeded Kansas.

If Allen was 100 percent and Lucas hadn't suffered a season-ending injury, Izzo would undoubtedly try and push the pace against the 30-4 Panthers, whom Izzo compared to Wisconsin. Like the Badgers, Northern Iowa prides itself on getting to the foul line, limiting the possessions of opponents, and avoiding mistakes.

Izzo said that Northern Iowa has more depth and versatility on the interior than the Badgers. And even though the Panther's have smaller guards than Wisconsin, the guards that they do have are capable of making big shots with the game on the line.

VIDEO: IZZO ON SWEET 16 MATCH-UP

If you are unable to watch the video embedded in the text above, click on the link below to see Izzo share his thoughts on Michigan State's Sweet 16 match-up with Northern Iowa.

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