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Michigan State's Tom Izzo remorseful, but comes up short at the press conference

Michigan State's Tom Izzo remorseful, but comes up short at the press conference

Tom Izzo only wanted to talk about basketball.

On Sunday afternoon in College Park, Md., Izzo's No. 6 ranked Michigan State Spartans rallied from down 13 to defeat the Maryland Terrapins 74-66.

The win keeps Michigan State just 1.5 games behind conference-leading Purdue, but also provided one of the first true chances Izzo had to speak to the media in the wake of the sentencing of Dr. Larry Nasser, a Michigan State University doctor who was in charge of team medicine for the U.S. Olympics gymnastics program.

I just hope that everybody rallies behind this team a little bit, and I hope we all rally behind the survivors, and we make our community a better place," Izzo said during his postgame interview on CBS.

When he took to the dais in the Xfinity Center media room, Izzo tried to stick to the game, but it was clear what was on everyone's mind. 

"i've cooperated with every investigation and will continue to do so," Izzo said, before insisting that he will only answer basketball questions.

Izzo was then pressed by an ESPN Outside the Lines reporter."You understand of course we have a lot of questions and you have not given any answers."

Izzo's response: "Nope. And I’m not gonna right now. Sorry.”

But this is a basketball issue. It is a Michigan State university issue. it is a Michigan State athletics issue.

On Friday, an ESPN Outside the Lines report uncovered a litany of evidence that suggests Michigan State officials engaged in “denial, inaction, and information suppression” when made aware of sexual assault accusations against members of the men’s football and basketball teams.

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In 2010, two Michigan State basketball players were accused of sexual assault by a fellow Michigan State student. One of the players refused to speak with police, while the other player corroborated the victim's claims, evening stating "I understand how she would feel that she was not free to leave.” 

The two players involved — then-incoming freshmen Keith Appling and Adriean Payne — we're never charged, or reprimanded by Izzo. The same Outside the Lines report also stated that Izzo allowed undergraduate student assistant coach Travis Walton to continue to work with the team even after he was accused of punching a women at a bar. Another student claimed Walton had sexually assaulted her several months prior. 

When asked about Walton, Izzo did not have a lot to say.

"It's been hard to focus on basketball, because when I do, I feel guilty," Izzo said, trying keep the focus on his team's stellar second-half performance on Sunday. 

While Izzo has never been found guilty of covering up or deterring sexual assault accusations, there is no room for error given the current climate. Even Izzo, one of the "good guys" in college basketball, is not free from criticism. Izzo knows better than most that he's not just a basketball coach. He is an educator, a boss, an advocate, a spokesperson, and a role model.

March is typically when Izzo and his team shine. But March Madness can wait, because Izzo needs to shine now.

With the university president and the athletic director out of power, Izzo is in a position to be completely transparent and go above and beyond to help the victims, something both AD Mark Hollis and school president Lou Ann Simon did not do.

Izzo didn't "lose the press conference" per se, but he didn't win it either. Izzo wants to do what's best here. He feels for all those involved, but his words on Sunday weren't enough.

Izzo could have stepped up and been the guiding light, as he's been in the past. He wanted to talk basketball.

But this is a basketball issue and Izzo should have said more.

 

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Maryland basketball unveils plans for new performance center

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Maryland basketball unveils plans for new performance center

The Terps were the only team in the Big Ten without a performance center dedicated specifically for basketball. That's about to change.

Maryland Athletics announced Tuesday a fundraising campaign to build a new Basketball Performance Center. The facility, totaling 60,000 square feet, would be home to both the men's and women's basketball teams.

The athletic department has already raised $19 million of the estimated $36 million needed to complete the project. With Tuesday's launch of the public phase of the fundraising campaign, the remaining $17 million will be funded through donations and athletic department revenues.

"It is our vision that with a new Basketball Performance Center, the university will continue its ascent in the Big Ten Conference and provide our teams with the infrastructure they need to continue striving for championships,” Athletics Director Damon Evans said at the event. “This new center will help provide a transformative experience for our student-athletes, giving them an unmatched opportunity to become top collegiate basketball players."

Maryland is one of only four schools to have won a championship in both men's and women's basketball, the men in 2002 under Gary Williams, and the women in 2006 under Brenda Frese, who's entering her 18th season with the Terps. She was named head coach of the women's team the day after the men won the National Championship in 2002. Both she and men's head coach Mark Turgeon spoke Tuesday.

“This training facility will keep both our basketball programs ahead of the curve and at the top of their games,” Frese said. “We always strive to be the best and this facility will represent that. In my 17 years at Maryland, the support we've received is incredible and I know our fans will love seeing our programs work out of the best facility in the country.”

The women's team is ranked No. 5 heading into the season, is returning all five starters and is adding the No. 3 recruiting class in the country as they try to defend their Big Ten regular-season title.

"The addition of a performance center will have an immeasurable impact on our basketball program as we strive to provide a first-class experience for our student-athletes,” Turgeon said. “The facility will upgrade nearly every facet of our program, further elevating our status in the national basketball landscape."

The men's team is a consensus top-10 team and returns every contributor from last year's team other than Bruno Fernando. The Terps will be led by senior point guard Anthony Cowan and Jalen Smith, who was a Big Ten All-Freshman honoree last season.

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Are the Terps a Top 10 team? This 2019-20 preseason Top 25 poll says 'yes'

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Are the Terps a Top 10 team? This 2019-20 preseason Top 25 poll says 'yes'

Maryland basketball's season ended in disappointing fashion last season as Tremont Waters sank the Terps with a last-second layup in the Round of 32 of the NCAA Tournament. Even still, NBC Sports College Basketball Talk's Preseason Top 25 has Maryland as the No. 9 team entering the season.

Sights immediately turned toward this coming season. Four freshmen enter the mix in Donta Scott, Chol Marial and Makhi and Makhel Mitchell. The first is a fill-it-up wing scorer from Philadelphia, the last two, twin 6-foot-9 big men from Washington, D.C. who wanted to stay home. Marial is a 7-foot, one-time top player in the nation who's been hampered by lower-body injuries. He'll miss time to start the season.

It won't be easy, but Marial and the twins will be tasked with replacing some of what the Terps are losing from now-Atlanta Hawk Bruno Fernando. Last year, Fernando averaged 13.6 points and 10.6 rebounds per game. His production will be missed, but he's the Terps' only significant departure.

Here's a full breakdown of the Terps' roster:

  • WHO’S GONE: Bruno Fernando
  • WHO’S BACK: Anthony Cowan, Jalen Smith, Serrel Smith Jr., Eric Ayala, Aaron Wiggins, Ricky Lindo, Darryl Morsell
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Chol Marial, Makhi Mitchell, Makhel Mitchell, Donta Scott
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Anthony Cowan, Eric Ayala, Aaron Wiggins, Ricky Lindo, Jalen Smith


The length of that 'who's back' line is almost as important as who's on it. Seven key contributors return, including senior point guard Anthony Cowan and sophomore big man Jalen Smith. The team will likely go as far as the two of them can carry it. Aaron Wiggins could be the x-factor that takes this team from a competitive, top-25 team to a dangerous, top-10 team. He's got all the talent and mentality to become a top-scorer on a great team. It's not always that simple, though.

There is nothing riskier than going all-in on a team coached by Mark Turgeon, but here we are. - Rob Dauster

This could be a make or break year for Mark Turgeon. He has one of the most talented rosters in the country. The last time the Terps entered the season with a Top 10 team, they never lived up to the hype. Another lackluster performance this season could heat up the hot seat for Turgeon.

But the big story is the 1-2 punch of Cowan and Smith and the depth that surrounds them. If they can put it all together, the Terps could make some noise in College Park this season.