Michigan State Basketball: History of Midseason Swoons that Preceded NCAA Glory



It’s extremely unlikely that this #9 Michigan State basketball team will lose at winless-in-conference-play Illinois, but stranger things have happened. The 2000 national championship team actually lost to Wright State, yes the Horizon League school, on December 30, 1999.

The 2008-09 national championship runners-up Spartans actually lost to Northwestern on January 21, 2009 and Penn State on February 1. We’ve seen ultimately phenomenal Michigan State basketball teams even fall victim to really poor Illini sides before, as the 2015 Final Four squad somehow lost, at home no less, to a John Groce led group on February 7 of that year. This Michigan State team also lost to Texas Southern in pre-conference play. This was the famed “Golden Age” of MSU athletics year.


It’s become an annual rite of passage, easily predictable, as we did in early November.

Let’s flash back to our B1G Purdue basketball season preview, published November 10:

Michigan State is everyone’s pick to win the league, but remember the Sparty script. They often stumble to inexcusable and inexplicable losses from the period of late December to mid February. Then they pick it up when it matters most in March.

If State repeats that pattern again this year and loses ground in the league race, perhaps this Purdue basketball team will be the side that steps up seizes the opportunity.

And now…

The good news is that the regrouping may have already started, as State looked absolutely elite Friday night in the way that they totally destroyed an improving Indiana team at home. It was certainly a welcoming signal after what had three totally miserable and uninspiring performances heading in. It’s really up to this Michigan State basketball team if they want to win by 35 or 5 tomorrow night.

We saw them coasting at Ohio State, and at home versus Michigan (their only meeting this season with their biggest rival) and Rutgers. They can’t coast too much at Illinois, because Michigan State currently holds a dubious distinction. Illinois has not won a conference game in either revenue sport since beating the Spartans on March 1, 2017. MSU was the vanquished in the most recent league victory for both Illinois football and men’s basketball.

A loss here tonight would go down in the annals with some of the other more embarrassing mid-season setbacks, which later precede deep runs in March.

2013-14: this Elite 8 squad fell to Nebraska and lost seven of 12 down the stretch.


2015-16 Michigan State basketball finished #2 in the AP poll, but also lost to Nebraska. The 2005 Final Four team lost to George Washington.

In other words, don’t worry too much if you see the Spartans falter again a couple times down the stretch. In the end, you know the saying in East Lansing: “January, February, Izzo.”

Like shampooing your hair, it’s just rinse and repeat; always repeat.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net and TheBank.News, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, a former writer for the Washington Times, NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, currently contributes regularly to WGN CLTV and the Tribune company’s blogging community Chicago Now.

Follow him on TwitterInstagramSound Cloud, LinkedIn and YouTube.

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