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Nebraska Michigan St Basketball

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo (left) greets Nebraska coach Tim Miles last season in East Lansing, Mich.

CHICAGO — Tim Miles has told the story a hundred times.

How, after Nebraska came out of nowhere to make the NCAA Tournament in 2014, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo called him up to let him know just how difficult the next season would be.

Izzo knew expectations would change. He knew teams would come after the Huskers like they hadn't previously. He knew how things would just be different.

They were, of course. The Huskers went through three straight losing seasons after that run, finally pulling out of the tailspin with last year's 22-11 record.

With the majority of that team back this season, Izzo didn't find it necessary to place another call as practice got underway.

"They’re too good now," Izzo joked Thursday at Big Ten Media Day in Chicago. "I don’t want to get them jacked up for this year."

The Izzo-Miles relationship goes back to the Husker coach's early days in the Big Ten, and has blossomed over time. They first got to know each other during a recruiting trip in 2012, when Izzo caught a ride on Nebraska's private plane from one recruiting stop to another.

A few years later, Izzo wrote the foreword for the book "Nebrasketball," which chronicled the Huskers' run to that NCAA berth. The Michigan State legend has long been one of Miles' staunchest supporters.

"It's a cool thing, and he's a cool guy because he understands the rigors of the profession," Miles said. "I think you learn a lot from these guys. Not only when you’re trying to strategize how you’re going to beat Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State or Maryland or Indiana or whoever. You learn a lot when you come to a coaches' meeting or whenever you get a phone call from whoever it is."

Miles is prepared for the education to pay off this year. He sat back and watched Thursday as his four stars — James Palmer, Isaac Copeland, Glynn Watson and Isaiah Roby — shared the spotlight that comes with being a preseason favorite in one of the top leagues in the country.

Most media outlets have Nebraska finishing anywhere from second to fourth or so in the Big Ten. All of those places have Michigan State winning the conference.

"Last year he called me and said, you deserved to be in the NCAA Tournament. And he didn’t say it was going to be worse," Miles said of Izzo. "I think he knows that we’re more well-equipped, and I think he knows we have more talent and just a lot of different things."

Izzo agreed, calling Nebraska's guards "as good as anybody in the country, much less the Big Ten." He respects Miles' ability as a coach, both on the court and off, even if he'd just as soon throw his phone in a river rather than join social media.

"Other than going on Twitter at halftime, which I ripped his ass for on that and got him out of that, he's a really good guy," Izzo cracked. "Like I say about myself, if he can overcome his coaching and his tweeting, he’ll be pretty good."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7436 or On Twitter @HuskerExtraCB.


Husker basketball reporter

A Ravenna native, Chris covers the University of Nebraska men's basketball team and assists with football coverage. He spent nearly 10 years covering sports at the Kearney Hub and nearly four years at the Springfield News-Leader in Springfield, Mo.

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