It’s time to start talking about whether or not Michigan State has cost themselves a shot at getting to the NCAA tournament.
On Sunday night, once again playing without starting forward Miles Bridges, the Spartans fell to 7-5 on the season with a 81-73 loss to Northeastern. That’s the same Northeastern team that won at UConn earlier this season, which seems like it may not be all that bad of a loss until you consider that A) UConn is not good this season, and B) Northeastern has also lost to Boston U., LIU-Brooklyn, Stony Brook, Cornell and Harvard.
Here’s the situation that the Spartans are in right now. They don’t have a quality non-conference win unless you consider their win over Wichita State, who lost by 17 at home to Oklahoma State on Saturday, a quality win. They also, however, only have one catastrophic loss, and that loss came with Bridges out of the lineup, something that the selection committee will take into consideration.
The determining factor, then, is going to be how Michigan State does in Big Ten play, and there are a couple of factors to be worried about here. For starters, the Big Ten appears to be tiered this year. Wisconsin, Indiana and Purdue look like they are the clear-cut top three teams in the league. Once you get past that, there is a logjam of teams that look like they’ll end up being in contention to get an at-large bid without really being good enough to threaten for the league title. The Michigans and Marylands and Ohio States and Northwesterns of the world.
The Spartans right now probably fall somewhere in the back end of that tier.
And that’s concerning.
But the other issue is that Tom Izzo’s team will only get four chances against that elite group. They play Indiana twice and get both Purdue and Wisconsin in East Lansing.
Michigan State needs to go at least 11-7 in Big Ten play and get two wins against the top three teams in the league to avoid missing the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1997.
I’ll let you decide whether or not they’re actually capable of doing that.