Michigan State basketball is peaking as Tom Izzo’s Spartans look to get back into the NCAA Tournament field.
The college basketball season has been rough on blue bloods and Michigan State was no exception. The Spartans entered a critical week at just 11-9 overall with a NET ranking in the 70s, figures that left them nowhere near the NCAA Tournament bubble.
That position has dramatically changed after consecutive home wins over top-five opponents with wins over Illinois on Tuesday and Ohio State on Thursday. Those two wins were a key part to walking a very thin tightrope the Spartans needed to cross in order to get in the mix for an NCAA Tournament berth, something that seemed extremely unlikely when the Spartans were 8-7 on Feb. 2 with a 2-7 Big Ten record.
What does Michigan State basketball’s resume look like now?
The metrics still aren’t big fans of the Spartans, which improved to just 68th in the NET rankings despite those two key victories. The factor in Michigan State’s favor is its five wins against Quadrant 1 foes, including the type of quality wins over elite competition that a team like Duke simply doesn’t have right now despite being ranked nearly 20 spots higher in the NET.
Tom Izzo can also take solace in the fact that the Spartans’ remaining schedule offers three more Quadrant 1 opportunities with the one Quadrant 2 game being a home date against slumping Indiana. The last two games on Michigan State’s schedule are a home-and-home series with Michigan, which has been the Big Ten’s best team all season long and offers the potential of another massive resume boost if the Spartans can salvage a split.
When the week began it looked like Michigan State would need to go 4-2 over its final six games to safely get in the at-large mix of a very weak bubble. The wins over Illinois and Ohio State have already shot the Spartans back into the mix, currently rating among the First Four teams out of the field according to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi.
Finding a way to split the final four games of their schedule along with avoiding a bad loss in the Big Ten Tournament should be enough to get the Spartans safely into the field. Anything less than that could leave Michigan State’s fate in the hands of the selection committee, which is a scary prospect since no one truly knows what criteria will be the difference makers to separate teams on the bubble each year.
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