Tom Izzo, Spartans stuck in limbo: 'I have to leave it to the experts'

John Niyo
The Detroit News

Like everyone else, Tom Izzo was stuck in limbo Thursday morning, ready to go but prepared to stop.

Michigan State’s basketball team was scheduled to have a meeting at 9:30 a.m., followed by a final practice in East Lansing before heading to Indianapolis ahead of their scheduled Big Ten tournament quarterfinal game Friday.

Tom Izzo

But in light of rapidly-changing developments across the country over concerns about the coronavirus pandemic, including the NBA’s decision to suspend its season, Izzo and the Spartans were prepared for any scenario.

“This whole thing has been speculation,” Izzo said Thursday morning in a radio interview with 97.1 The Ticket. “It’s been speculated now for a couple days that they’d play without fans, and then the NBA does that, so there’s speculation that (the Big Ten tournament) won’t be played at all. We’re sitting here, we have a meeting at 9:30, practice at 10:30, and maybe we’ll know something this afternoon. I’ve been told nothing, but when you see some of the things that happened, there’s usually the trickle-down effect. If that happens, it’ll be for a good reason. And if it doesn’t, we’ll play the games.”

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After the NCAA announced late Wednesday afternoon that it was planning to proceed with it’s postseason men’s basketball tournament as scheduled next week, but with attendance limited to “only essential staff and limited family” members, the Big Ten and other major conferences also made similar announcements regarding the rest of their league tournaments this week.

"The main priority of the Big Ten Conference is to ensure the safety of our student-athletes, coaches, administrators, fans and media as we continue to monitor all relevant information on the COVID-19 virus on a daily basis," the Big Ten said in a statement.

But a bizarre scene unfolded later Wednesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, as Nebraska coach Fred Hoiberg left the bench feeling ill during the final minutes of his team’s opening-round game against Indiana. He was taken to a local hospital and his team briefly quarantined in the postgame locker room, but Hoiberg was later released from the hospital after testing positive for influenza-A, according to the team.

There was no official update from the Big Ten early Thursday morning, but games were scheduled to begin at noon with the first quarterfinal matchup between Michigan and Rutgers. The Spartans, who earned a double-bye after earning the No. 2 seed entering the tournament, aren’t scheduled to play their first game until Friday at 6:30 p.m.

“It is something that is completely out of our control,” Izzo said. “And I’ve wavered back and forth on what’s right and what’s wrong, and it’s just another one of those things. It’s been the kind of year that there’s a lot of things out of your control, a lot of things that you’re not an expert at. I said I’ve worn a lot of different hats this year with things we’ve gone through here, but this hat is one that I can’t even wear. I have to leave it to the experts, and that’s what I’m gonna do.”

In a separate interview on the Dan Patrick Show, Izzo suggested that "maybe it would be best" if Big Ten tournament games were postponed or cancelled.