A dose of perspective

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Everybody hurts, sometimes.

You'll recall that the AP preseason poll is remarkably predictive for NCAA tournament results.  Here are the current win-loss records for the this season's preseason top five:

  1. Kentucky 21-6
  2. MSU 22-6
  3. Louisville 23-4
  4. Duke 22-6
  5. Kansas 21-6

Look at all those seasons on "the brink"!!!

Here's a summary of recent results for the current AP top four (Kansas is #5):

--#4 Syracuse has lost its last two games and barely squeezed out the two games before that.  Two of those four games were played against teams well below (one of them 100 spots below) Nebraska in the KenPom rankings.

--#3 Arizona has the following results in its last seven games: two losses, one overtime win, two one-possession wins.  None of those games were played against KenPom top-25 teams.

--#2 Wichita State is undefeated.  Maybe they're unstoppable.  But KenPom only thinks they're the eighth most efficient team in the country.

--#1 Florida has won 19 games in a row.  They also haven't beaten a team in the decidedly mediocre SEC by more than 10 points in over three weeks.

This MSU team is very flawed at the moment--mostly on defense.  They've allowed 8 of their last 9 opponents to score over a point per possession, with 4 of those opponents (2 of which are Michigan) to score over 1.1 points per possession.  The team is making a lot fewer big plays on defense (blocks/game are down from 5.6 to 3.6 and steals/game are down from 8.0 to 5.3 over the last 9 games) while also giving up too many easy looks around the basket.  Some of that is Branden Dawson's absence.  Some of it's overall team energy and discipline.

BUT every national contender is looking flawed in some significant way right now.

There isn't a ton of time left to right the ship, but there is time.  And other teams are doing righting of their own.

We got swept in convincing fashion by our in-state rival.  That sucks.  Be way bummed about it.  But a 9-point road loss to a ranked team with players hitting multiple three-pointers with hands in their faces is not a crippling event.

The season's far from over.  The heart/grit/hustle/toughness the team showed in its 18-1 start hasn't suddenly vaporized.  It's the same players.  It's the same coach.  March still beckons.

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