The Michigan State Spartans, currently ranked #15 in the latest AP poll, have suffered three early season out of conference losses already. Tom Izzo’s men, who began the year as the nation’s top ranked team, have fallen to the likes Kentucky (#6 in the latest AP poll) Duke (#4) and unranked Virginia Tech.
That’s the bad news. The good news is they’re off to a great start in Big Ten conference play, winning both of their early season league games, versus Rutgers 77-65 and at Northwestern 77-72. The latter broke the Big Ten road hex this season as all 13 times, prior to tonight in Evanston, the home team has won.
Just about everybody making college basketball picks this preseason and regular season picked Michigan State to win the Big Ten. Many picked the Spartans to win it all. As it stands currently, heading into the holidays, MSU is the only Big Ten team that is 2-0. It is something that Izzo motivated his guys to accomplish.
“I did that, you got to come up with something right?” he said jokingly.
“When I go home for Christmas there won’t be any rings or banners for 2-0. It’ll probably help me enjoy Christmas more in that we got off to a good start, but we have a long way to go.”
Only 6,734 showed up, a majority of which were rooting for Michigan State, showed up tonight to see a game that Sparty led end to end. NU did cut the deficit to three in the first half, and then down to four in the final minute. A big reason why is how effective the Wildcats were in turning them over tonight.
“16 turnovers, is embarrassing, and they weren’t pressing,” said Izzo in postgame. “You’re not going to be good if you’re doing that.”
“Letting that lead drop down to four, to six, give them some credit, give our guys some blame.”
GAMER at RealTimeRPI.com projects a 19-12 final season record (11-9 in league play) for State. This projection sees the Spartans finishing with a RPI of 48 and a schedule strength of 31. As of now, their RPI is 27 and their SoS is 14.
The most telling statistic of the night was rebounding margin, won by MSU 48-21. Sparty edged out the Cats 14-4 in offensive rebounds.
“Sometimes the defensive rebounds can be misleading, but the 14 offensive rebounds, 14 extra possessions,” said Northwestern coach Chris Collins. “Obviously their ability to rebound at a high level hurt us.
“You talk about Michigan State- that’s what they do well.”
In terms of other metrics, Michigan State, now 8-3 overall, is #10 in the Sagarin rankings and #5 in Kenpom.
Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, the author of “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly appears on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation.