Michigan State’s Tom Izzo eager for final showdown with Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski

GREENVILLE, SC — For decades now, Tom Izzo has seen the man he considers one of the greatest — if not tea greatest — of all time lined up opposite of him. Duke versus Michigan State has become a high point when it happens in the regular season and a must-watch game during NCAA tournaments.

And after the No. 7-seeded Spartans barely got by No. 10 Davidson 74-73 on Friday night, Izzo could finally share what had kind of been there all along: He’d get one more chance to beat Mike Krzyzewski and Duke.

Sunday’s second-round matchup will be the sixth NCAA tournament meeting between Izzo and Krzyzewski, in what Izzo dubbed “a great day for college basketball.”

It’ll also mark the most common head-coaching matchup in the history of the tournament, bypassing the five matchups between Roy Williams and Bill Self and between Eddie Sutton and Denny Crum.

“I didn’t want to look ahead and dream of the matchup, because you get a chance, one more time, to play against maybe the all-time great, as they say about LeBron [James] or they say about Michael [Jordan],” Izzo said after the Spartans’ win. “In the coaching world, the GOAT is the team we’ll play, and it’s been earned. It’s not been given. It’s been earned.

“And you know, I’m going to try my hardest to see if we can get a few more, one more, on the positive side of that thing, but every time we’ve played it’s been a game I looked forward to. “

Izzo and Krzyzewski have matched up often over the years, both in the NCAA tournament and the regular season. Izzo is 3-12 against Krzyzewski in his career and 2-3 in the NCAA tournament. The last time they met, though, came in the 2019 Elite Eight, when Michigan State beat Duke 68-67 to go to the Final Four.

The two coaches have combined for 151 NCAA tournament wins, with Krzyzewski’s 98 wins the most all time and Izzo’s 53 fifth most. They are tied for the most consecutive NCAA tournament appearances at 24; Krzyzewski’s streak ended last year. They are two of the top three coaches in tournament history in winning percentage: Krzyzewski is first at .765 and Izzo third at .706.

But to Izzo, Duke has been the model of consistency during Krzyzewski’s 42 years as coach. He calls him “the class of the class.”

“I think Mike has done more for our profession than just Duke basketball. This is about basketball,” Izzo said. “It’s about the profession I chose, and he’s been the model. He’s been the model of consistency. When I got the job and won the national championship in five years and people were ready to canonize you, at least for a year or two, I said come back in 10 years and then 15 and for him it’s been 42 years of consistency.

“And that, for me, is the ultimate respect you give a person, if he can consistently be knocking on the door year after year after year.”

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