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HOLMES: Tom Izzo Again Proves He's Best Coach In America

Tom Izzo is the best coach in college basketball. Period. End of story. End of discussion.

Izzo's mastery of his craft was as evident as ever Sunday afternoon as his seventh-seeded Michigan State team knocked off the second seed - and Atlantic Coast Conference regular season champion - Virginia, 60-54. Cavaliers coach Tony Bennett had seen his squad outwork, outthink and outhustle teams all year long to the tune of a 30-4 record in the ultra-competitive ACC. In their NCAA matchup Sunday, Bennett watched as it was his team getting outworked, outthought, outhustled and outcoached by Izzo and the Spartans.

This was not a case of Michigan State being better than Virginia. They're not. Aside from Kentucky, the Cavaliers have the best defense in America and - again, aside from Kentucky - have been the most consistently good team in college basketball all year long.

On the other hand, the 2015 Spartans have not exactly been Tom Izzo's most talented club. In fact, far from it. The Spartans battled through injuries and frustrating, head scratching losses over the first half of the season. Yes, there were times when the State faithful wondered if they would miss out on the Big Dance for the first time since 1997.

Izzo, himself, had to worry when his team dropped a 71-64 overtime stunner to Texas Southern on December 20. The result was TSU's first win over a top 25 team in 20 years and led Izzo to throw some blame...directly at himself.

"We didn't practice hard...too worried about my little guys getting tired," Izzo told reporters after the game. "That was a coaching loss, and I take full responsibility for it, and I plan on rectifying it starting at 8:30 tomorrow morning."

If there was a rock bottom, a loss in a guarantee game - the Spartans paid the Tigers a reported $95,000 to make the trip to East Lansing - was it.

As we now know, the Spartans have rebounded and find themselves with a one-in-sixteen shot to win the national championship. But more on Izzo...

To say he's the best coach in America is to put him ahead of such luminaries as Duke's Coach K, Kentucky's Coach Cal and Kansas' Bill Self. There is one major difference that separates Izzo from all the other top tier coaches in college basketball: talent.

Since Izzo took over at Michigan State in 1995, he has signed 11 McDonald's All-Americans to play for the Spartans. By comparison, Duke has signed 42 McD's players over that same stretch. Izzo has developed his less heralded players and led Michigan State to six Final Four appearances. In that period, Coach K's teams have been to just four Final Fours.

Other top coaches have done much less with much more. Calipari's been at Kentucky since 2009, signing a whopping 20 McDonald's All-Americans. Since leaving Kansas for North Carolina in 2003, Roy Williams has landed 25 McD's players. Bill Self replaced Williams with the Jayhawks, signing 15 of the elite recruits.

Calipari and Self have each won one national title and if the NCAA has any gumption they'll strip Roy Williams of the two he's stolen won in Chapel Hill. Don't hold your breath.

Izzo has his one national championship - the Flintstones team in 2000 - and continues to rely more on his X's and O's than on his ability to woo one-and-dones.

Following the Virginia win on Sunday, Izzo told reporters, "We're just not as talented as we've been (in past years), so we are always cheating to find a way to get an edge."

Substitute "coaching" for "cheating" and you have something closer to the truth.

Don't be surprised if the Spartans make a run to another Final Four next weekend. They have one matchup advantage over any team they'll face and he just proved again that March is his time.

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