‘Dean’ Izzo sick of abuse to Big Ten

By Lucas Deal

Bruce Weber has been taking a lot of flak throughout the media and Illini Nation recently. People are angry about the way Weber’s Illini have been playing and there is a growing sentiment that he might not be the quality of a coach that most people thought he was in 2005.

Illinois’ league, the Big Ten, has also received a fair amount of criticism recently for being top heavy and soft. Since the conference was unable to advance one team into the regionals of last year’s NCAA Tournament, its toughness has been questioned.

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Michigan State coach Tom Izzo is sick of hearing about it. He thinks the people questioning Weber and the league, whoever they are, are dead wrong.

“Bruce Weber has done a heck of a job here,” Izzo said after Weber’s Illini knocked off the Spartans 57-50 Tuesday night at the Assembly Hall. “People don’t realize how beat up his team really is.”

Yep, Izzo came to the aide of his fellow Big Ten counterpart, as well as the league itself, in a stirring postgame press conference after the Illini win.

“People say I’m the dean of this league’s coaches … and I’m sick and tired of the way it’s being treated,” he said.

“We have two teams in this league ranked in the top five and everyone acts like everyone else isn’t good.”

“Ohio State is going to play four games this year against teams ranked in the top four, who else can say that?” Izzo added.

Izzo believes the league’s criticism should stop immediately.

“If we (Big Ten teams) aren’t good enough, then we aren’t good enough,” he said, adding that it’s up to the team’s themselves to decide how good the league really can be.

“If someone from the bottom of our league beats a team at the top, people say we’re soft,” Izzo said, “but if a team from another league knocks off its top team then (that conference) is deep.”

“I don’t understand it.”

Izzo said a lot of that can be attributed to the conference’s youth and inexperience, as well as the injury bug that has hit the Spartans and the Illini.

“I’ve never had any injuries,” Weber said after the win. “You have a guy miss a game here and there, but not like this.”

Thus far this season, every Illini regular with the exception of senior Rich McBride has missed a significant amount of practice time for at least one injury.

And some players have been worse than others.

For example, Illini point guard Chester Frazier has experienced more than four separate injuries on his feet this season alone, and yet the Illini sophomore continues to take the court each and every night.

His courage has been a lesson to the rest of his teammates and both Weber and Izzo have taken notice.

“The (trainer) told me (Tuesday) morning he wouldn’t play,” Weber said.

Before the game, Weber checked back with his guard to see if the news had changed and Frazier said he’d try to play, but didn’t know for sure what to expect.

He ended up leading the Illini with 17 points and six rebounds.

“Frazier showed me more guts than anybody I’ve seen since Mateen Cleaves,” Izzo said. “I told him at our place that he’s the toughest player in the league and I told him again tonight.”

“He just makes gutsy plays.”

Izzo went on to add that he thinks his Spartans and the Illini still have a lot of growing to do before the Big Ten Tournament, but is confident both coaches will have things worked out in time.

As for Weber, Izzo thinks people should just cut him some slack.

“He’s won more games than Tom Izzo, Coach K and a lot of other guys did in their first four years,” he said. “But he’s a great coach and doesn’t need a ‘rah-rah’ speech from me.”

That’s probably true, but it couldn’t hurt. Having the Dean on your side never does.

Lucas Deal is a senior in Communications. He can be reached at

[email protected]