Edging out Indiana in a 64-58 victory, Michigan State men’s basketball will enter its final two games of the season in a better spot than many believed they would be one week ago.
A Spartan team that, for some seemed doomed, had the best stretch of their season last week. MSU, now 14-10 overall and 8-10 in the Big Ten, turned their season around by defeating top ten opponents Illinois and Ohio State in a 48-hour span.
The victories showed a different side of this bubble-team, a side that then vanished in a loss to Maryland Sunday.
Regardless, the teams' Tuesday and Thursday victories put MSU back on the radar for NCAA post-season play in many projections.
For Head Coach Tom Izzo, whether or not it's his team included in the field of 68, he said the level of skill in the Big Ten conference this season should grant a fair number of teams a spot.
“If our conference doesn’t deserve nine or 10 teams, I don’t know what conference ever will,” Izzo said post game on Tuesday. “Now, saying that, are we one of those? I don’t know, that’s for you guys to write about or some committee to pick. We dug ourselves our own hole, I said a long time ago that loss to Purdue could end up a haunting loss…and if it is, so be it, but we’re going to give it our fight.”
In terms of bracket speculation, well-known ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi listed MSU as “in with a win,” entering Tuesday evening. That win was then accomplished.
Andy Katz listed MSU in a First Four matchup with Boise State in a bracket he released prior to Tuesday as well.
“I think we’re an NCAA Tournament team. Who else is going to play who we’ve played and who else is going to go through COVID, where you’ve got players effected,” Izzo said, citing the lasting effects the virus continues to have on players like Gabe Brown and Joshua Langford. “Somebody will pick and choose whether we’re worthy of that we’ve still got work to do and we can still add to our resume and that’s all that’s on my mind right now.”
However as of March 1, MSU sat at No. 77 in the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET) rankings. The NET rankings are usually the primary tool used by the selection committee heading into tournament play and MSU’s rank puts them nine away from the No. 68 safety zone.
But Izzo and his squad have some work to do first.
"I’m not going to worry about that," Izzo said of NCAA Tournament projection. "I’ve got a rivalry game, I’ve got an oportunity of a lifetime."
A unique season will of course end in one-of-a-kind fashion. Michigan State will take on in-state rival Michigan back-to-back away on Thursday and home on Sunday.
The games will close out the regular season for both teams. After losing to Illinois Tuesday night, Michigan will continue fighting for the Big Ten regular season title.
The Spartans have admittedly struggled with fatigue given their tasking final two weeks. Brown, who put up 10 points against Indiana, “We just got to push through, I mean that’s what all our captains and all our players on the team have to do,” Brown said. “Everybody has to bring energy, everybody has to bring passion and competitiveness, that’s what it’s all about.”
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