In the latest Associated Press poll, men's basketball concluded the regular season at No. 2 in the country behind Virginia.
MSU has won 12 straight games and captured the Big Ten regular season title at Wisconsin, 68-63, finishing the regular season at 28-3 (16-2 Big Ten). The Spartans will play as the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten Tournament.
MSU is one of the most dangerous offensive teams in the country. The Spartans have the highest assist rate in the country at 69.4 and are top 10 in both effective field-goal and offensive rebounding percentage.
Even with turnover issues this season — the team averages 13.4 a game — MSU leads the nation in total blocks, assists per game and is second in total rebounds. This has resulted in the team have the sixth most efficient defense, according to KenPom.
However, the Spartans have been consistently ranked lower than a No. 2 seed in recent projected brackets for the NCAA Tournament.
In the most recent ESPN college power rankings by Jeff Borzello, the Spartans are ranked No. 5, and are ranked No. 13 according to RPI statistics. In the latest ESPN Bracketology projection by ESPN insider Joe Lunardi, the Spartans sit as the No. 2 seed in the midwest-region of the tournament. Xavier is the No. 1 seed, even though it sits at No. 3 behind MSU in the AP poll.
MSU Assistant Athletic Director Kevin Pauga said the AP and coaches polls are not designed to by synonymous with how the selection committee select teams for the NCAA Tournament.
“Different writers and coaches view the polls differently, and vote in them accordingly," Pauga said via email. "The men’s basketball committee does not use or reference them in any way during their process.”
Pauga said most bracket projections are trying to project what the March Madness committee would do if the season ended today. Conference tournaments have yet to be played, which will influence the seeding.
The Spartans post one of the worst non-conference strength of schedule in the country, ranking No. 256 in the country.
RPI stands for rating percentage index, ranking teams based on wins and losses according to their strength of schedule. It's composed of the team's winning percentage, the opponents' winning percentage and the winning percentage of the opponents' opponents.
Both the opponents' winning percentage and the opponents' opponents winning percentage are combined to determine the strength of schedule rankings.
MSU is No. 13 in RPI rankings and No. 89 in SOS rankings. They are 2-3 against team's in the top 25 for RPI rankings. The Spartans have only three quality wins against North Carolina, Nebraska and Purdue, according to RPI statistics.
Pauga runs his own statistical site known as KPI Sports, which ranks teams based on game-by-game basis. Pauga ranks the Spartans currently at No. 14 with a key performance indicator of .321.
A new terminology has also been used to determining this year's 2018 NCAA Tournament selection: quadrants. There are multiple quadrants broken up, including quadrant 1, quadrant 2, quadrant 3 and quadrant 4.
Quadrant 1 includes the top games a team has played. This means a team's home games against opponents in the top 30 of the RPI rankings, neutral games against opponents RPI in the top 50 and road games against RPI-ranked teams in the top 75.
MSU has been consistently noted for having faced a low amount of quadrant 1 games and are 3-2 in those games. There most notable wins come from a neutral floor game against RPI No. 8 North Carolina, a home game against No. 14 Purdue and a road win over No. 63 Maryland.
Despite wins against Notre Dame, Maryland, Wisconsin and Indiana, which were projected to be quadrant 1 wins, they have been turned into quadrant 2 and 3 wins because of how disappointing their seasons have been. Wins over Cleveland State and Houston Baptist, who have significantly low RPI rankings, do not help the Spartans' case.
But a successful Big Ten Tournament might help MSU's chances of improving its RPI and getting a No. 1 seed in the big dance.
The Spartans have a double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament. MSU will play the winner of the Wisconsin-Maryland game at noon on Friday at Madison Square Garden.
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