Eye on April, Tom Izzo unruffled by MSU’s No. 2 ranking

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo watches the action during the win over Southern Utah on Saturday.

East Lansing – Michigan State was one of the few top-10 teams to get out of last week unscathed.

So, too, was Villanova, which had a win over No. 12 Gonzaga last week, enough to offset a sluggish win over LaSalle and leapfrog Michigan State into the No. 1 ranking the nation.

Villanova (10-0) went from No. 4 to No. 1 in both the Associated Press poll and the coaches’ polls this week as Michigan State (9-1) went from No. 3 to No. 2 in both.

The Spartans defeated Rutgers and Southern Utah last week, not enough to stay ahead of the unbeaten Wildcats, but it wasn’t something Michigan State coach Tom Izzo was worrying about on Monday.

“I don’t know. We haven’t been 1 for a couple years so I don’t know what kind of distraction it would bring,” Izzo said at his weekly press conference. “There’s enough on this team already that I don’t think it would bring anymore distractions, but it doesn’t totally surprise me. Villanova was playing well, though they struggled yesterday, too.

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“As I said, if we don’t win by 20 we’re struggling so we have to deal with that as it is and that’s great. As they say, it’s not where you are in December it’s where you are in April that matters and we’ll just keep working toward that goal for ourselves.”

Michigan State has a bit of a break from games this week as players take final exams, but it will get challenged again on Saturday when they take on Oakland at 2:30 p.m. at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit.

The Spartans and Golden Grizzlies (6-4) have played 15 times with Michigan State winning every meeting. However, Oakland has come close, including in 2015 when it pushed No. 1-ranked MSU to the limit at The Palace before the Spartan prevailed in overtime.

Michigan State won’t have the No. 1 ranking this time, but that hardly lessens how big it will be for coach Greg Kampe and the Grizzlies.

“I’m sure Greg is more disappointed than I am, because I’m sure he would have loved for us to come in there as 1,” Izzo said. “But if he beats the No. 1 team or the No. 2 team it’s gonna be damn good for his program so he shouldn’t worry about that either.”