They’ve had their share of ups and downs, but both Michigan and MSU, heading into the most important month of the college basketball season, look poised to earn their NCAA Tournament bids.
The expectations were high this year for both teams. It’s hard to say at this point that those expectations were met. However, there’s still time.
The Spartans started the season sluggish, losing five games in the non-conference. It made fans worried, especially following a disappointing football season. But today there are several reasons to have optimism heading into the final stretch.
Looking back, four of those five non-conference losses were to very talented teams—Arizona, Kentucky, Baylor and Duke. All were ranked at the time, and all continue to be ranked today. For having such a young squad, they used those losses as learning experiences.
Flash forward: Is MSU a dominant team, as they’ve been time and time again under coach Tom Izzo? No. Far from it, actually. But the raw talent is there. They have won four-of-five and just took down a very good Wisconsin team. There are two tests left until the conference tournament. Right now, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has Michigan State as a nine-seed in the NCAA Tournament, and we’d have to agree.
Down the road, the Wolverines are putting together quite the season.
Similarly to MSU, Michigan saw some bumps in the non-conference, losing three games. The worst of it, though, came to start the Big Ten slate. The Maize and Blue dropped six of its first 10 conference matchups.
And then something changed. They demolished Michigan State at home by 29. Then they went on the road and beat a solid Indiana team by 12. Then they came home and beat No. 11 Wisconsin. And then, following an overtime loss on the road to Minnesota and a road win at Rutgers, Michigan beat the conference’s top team, Purdue, by 12 points (and the game was not really that close).
Things seem to be clicking for the Wolverines. Lunardi has them at an eight-seed in the NCAA Tournament right now.
Success in college hoops comes in March. That’s when teams need to get hot. It seems, for these two, the timing couldn’t be better.