clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Is Dave Van Horn College Baseball's Tom Izzo?

There are few coaches who fans have complete confidence in, and Arkansas is fortunate enough to have one on the top step of its dugout

"I wouldn't put anything past Dave Van Horn."

"You can't count out Dave Van Horn, man. Just can't do it."

"If there's one guy who could turn this season around, it's Dave Van Horn."

Arkansas was a mediocre 14-14 and 3-6 in Southeastern Conference play as the calendar turned to April, fresh off a 2-0 loss to Missouri State at Baum Stadium. A road trip to Auburn was next and, with one win, Van Horn would reach 500 victories at Arkansas.

The Razorbacks took two of three from the Tigers, and Arkansas was officially off to the races.

Series wins over Kentucky and No. 1 Texas A&M, on the road, followed and the bandwagon started to fill back up ... because Dave Van Horn was doing his thing again.

The Razorbacks would not lose another series the remainder of the regular season, firmly planting themselves into the postseason when many thought adding "2015" to the Regional appearances on the left-centerfield wall was an afterthought.

But no, Arkansas got hot and hasn't cooled off (with the exception of the big losses in the SEC Tournament). Sure, Andrew Benintendi's power and confidence has led the offense, and Dave Jorn has figured out his pitching staff – for the most part – but Dave Van Horn will get a majority of the credit.

Well, there's another highly touted college coach media pundits and fans like to say the same things about in March. It's Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo. It's like clockwork – when NCAA Tournament brackets are released, everyone looks to see where Izzo and MSU are, and the "You can't count out Tom Izzo" talks begin.

In 2014-15, he took the Spartans, a 7-seed, to the Final Four just months after dropping a game to Texas Southern – seriously – in the Breslin Center. That's as bad as a 14 ER, 13 walk, four wild pitch performance against a Gonzaga club (24-28, 13-14 WCC) who outscored the Razorbacks 21-7 in a two-game midweek sweep.

Izzo is great at developing players and making adjustments, and that allows his teams to improve as the season progresses. His teams in certain years aren't the sharpest early (exhibit A: Texas Southern), but there are few basketball teams the elite programs want to face less than in March than Michigan State. Sounds like Arkansas baseball in May/June.

Another area Van Horn and Izzo compare is their respective dedication to get their players to the peak of their sports. Izzo's goal is to take each four year class to at least one Final Four while at Michigan State. It's part of his recruiting pitch. And so far, he's failed to meet that goal just once in East Lansing.

Van Horn appears to recruit with a similar model at Arkansas, and has only failed to reach the College World Series at least once every four years just once, as well.

Izzo, since his hiring in 1995, has taken Michigan State to seven Final Fours (1999-2001, 2005, 2009, 2010, 2015). Meanwhile, since he left Nebraska for Arkansas in 2003, Van Horn has led the Razorbacks to Omaha four times (2004, 2009, 2012, 2015), and six times total as a head coach. Izzo has taken Sparty to the NCAA Tournament each year since 1998. Van Horn has taken Arkansas to 13 straight Regionals.

One of the few places Van Horn doesn't stand up to Izzo is in national championships (Michigan State in 2000). But where it's hard to argue against the comparisons between the two is that Izzo and Van Horn have reached the peak both with star power, and by doing more with less.

Arkansas was counted out early and is still viewed as an underdog despite Van Horn being in the dugout and its run the last two-plus months. Michigan State, especially last season, was overlooked in the NCAA Tournament only to make a run to the Final Four.

It's true, you can't count out Arkansas baseball or Michigan State basketball. Or its head coaches.

Is Dave Van Horn college baseball's Tom Izzo?