Izzo hopes Spartans will ‘Cruise’ to a title

Tony Garcia
Special to The Detroit News

The mission wasn’t complete last year — at least, not according to Tom Izzo.

Izzo and his staff made the 15,000 fans at Breslin Center Friday night wonder how any can team go stay positive throughout the adversity, the twists and turns, and the ups and downs that a full basketball season inevitably brings.

Sometimes that mission just seems impossible.

Bring in Tom Cruise. Or at least an unbelievably convincing lookalike.

After the pre-ceremony “hype video” showed Tom Izzo being helicoptered in after rescuing the national championship trophy from a plane, Izzo and his family made their way down the stairs between sections 113 and 112 in the Breslin Center.

The crowd roared, but there wasn’t the usual mystique that was created when Tom Izzo came in as a member of KISS, a hippie or Iron Man like in years past.

But then as the Tom that East Lansing is familiar with began his introduction, he said he needed “his guy.” His guy that “made this all possible.”

The lights dimmed, and a police escort proceeded the emergence of an all black Tahoe and everybody knew that something special was about to occur.

Then, one of the only Tom’s that is likely more famous than East Lansing’s pride and joy, Tom Cruise, emerged to a deafening roar from the crowd.

While it wasn’t the real Tom Cruise, the aura was created and the crowd was buzzing the rest of the evening.

Breslin Center’s capacity was pushed to the limit for the free event, and rumbled with applause for the men’s and women’s teams throughout the night.

Suzy Merchant and her women’s team got the festivities started coming out as “Spartans Angels,” a spoof of the “Charlies Angels” TV show and movies.

Each team member showed off her best dance moves, highlighted by “The Whip,” “The Nae Nae,” and “The Quan.” Ariel Powers even “cooked” a little bit entering the arena.

However, the raising of the men’s 2015 Final Four banner highlighted the evening as Tom Izzo called the packed house a “dream come true” after last season’s run.

Each player got entered from the second level of Breslin Center, walked through the crowd, and down onto the court.

The loudest cheers — aside from Tom Izzo and faux-Tom Cruise’s entrance — came for captains Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn and senior leader Denzel Valentine.

Izzo told the crowd “the mission” this season is to win a national championship, a mission that Izzo has been just two steps from on seven occasions. Izzo and his staff are searching for their ever-elusive second national championship, and feel good about their chances.

While the scrimmage that took place at the end of the evening was hardly anything to put any stock in, one can see why Izzo feels confident.

The Spartans, while young, fast and deep at the wing position, and can shoot as well as any of his previous teams, Izzo said.

He also mentioned the football team and said he hoped the student turnout will be strong for Saturday’s game against Indiana.

The Spartans open the basketball season Nov. 4, 2015, against Northern Michigan.