Spartans are steady as they go

Tom Izzo is all smiles after taking his team back to the Final Four. AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

The "Instant Intel" series is designed to immediately respond to a team's victory by looking ahead to its next opponent.

If we didn't already believe it, we should now: Tom Izzo is a brilliant big-game coach.

When things are going well, anyone can pace the sidelines. But, oh boy, did things fall apart for the Spartans against Tennessee -- and Izzo pulled his players through.

The first 10 minutes of the game, the Vols shot six 3-pointers -- and made all of them. (They had an effective field goal percentage of 100!) But shooting was the only thing the Vols did better than the Spartans, so the score was just 26-22 at that point.

Meanwhile, Michigan State was superb. The Spartans took good shots and hit 61.5 percent of them. And when they missed, they grabbed the offensive rebound 60 percent of the time. They took care of the ball, ran their offense and scored on 10 of 13 possessions. In short, they were playing their game; they were doing what it takes to win.

But they weren't winning.