After a rough fall for MSU fans, basketball season is finally upon us. When last we checked in with Tom Izzo’s crew they were ending their season in disappointing fashion with a loss in the Final Four. But the season was anything but a disappointment as MSU knocked off Duke to reach the Final Four, won both Big Ten titles, and beat their in-state rivals three times. It was a fun season.
As a result, expectations are the highest of the high for MSU this season. For the first time in the program’s history, the Spartans are the pre-season number one team in the country. It should be another fun season on the hardwood in East Lansing, so to get you ready, here are some interesting notes to get your basketball blood pumping.
Pre-Season Number One
As mentioned above, MSU is the pre-season number one for the first time in school history. But what does that mean in terms of season success? Well here are some of the numbers.
Going back to when the tournament expanded to 64 teams in the 1984-85 season six of the 35 pre-season number ones (17.1%) cut the nets down at the end of the year, the last to do so was the 2008-09 North Carolina team that beat MSU in the national title game.
Almost half the pre-season number one teams (17 of 35) make the Final Four, although the last three have not. However, the previous three all did, with two of them playing for the national title.
Speaking of losing in the national title game, seven teams have lost the final game of the season, compared to the six that cut down the nets. That gives you about a 37% chance, historically of playing in the final game as the pre-season number one.
Almost 63% of the teams make the Elite Eight and over 77% make it out of the first weekend.
The 2004-05 Kansas squad has the dubious distinction of being the only pre-season number one in the expanded tournament era to lose their first game in the NCAA Tournament.
So while being pre-season number one is nice, it doesn’t guarantee much of anything, although having a better than one-in-three shot to play in the national title game is pretty good.
Going back to the 2010-11 season Michigan State is 10-3 as the number one team in the country.
One versus Two
This will be the third time that MSU has played a number one versus number two matchup in the Champions Classic. The Spartans are 1-1 in those games, having beaten Kentucky in 2013, and losing to Duke in 2017.
In both of the previous games the Spartans were the number two team, taking on the top team in the country.
The senior point guard will be chasing a lot of history this year and has a chance to set school, conference, and national records. If you followed my posts last year you know I kept up on a lot of this as the season unfolded, but here are some of the key figures.
Winston comes into his senior season 21st on the all-time MSU scoring list. He needs 589 points to reach the 2,000 point mark. There are 31 regular season games, with the possibility for nine post-season games. Figuring a conservative 35 games this year, Winston will need to average 16.8 points per game to get to 2,000 points.
That seems well within his range as he averaged two points better than that last season.
Should he get to exactly 2,000 points he will be fifth place on the all-time MSU scoring list.
Now to assists where Winston is already second in school history with 714 dimes. He trails Mateen Cleaves by 102 for the number one spot. It took 14 games for Cassius to get that many assists last year en route to his school record 291 assists.
So Winston should easily become the all-time leader in assists at MSU, which would also give him the Big Ten record. The real question is if he can get to 1,000 career assists. He will need 286 assists in order to do that, which would mean basically duplicating last year’s mark.
That would be tough, but certainly not impossible.
I brought up last year, and it has been written about by others before this year as well, that Winston has a chance to become the first player in history to have 2,000 career points and 1,000 career assists.
Doing either feat would be a remarkable accomplishment, doing them both would be incredible.
Winston also has a chance to become just the third player to repeat as Big Ten Player of the Year. The last to do it…Mateen Cleaves. The only other to accomplish the feat was Jim Jackson at Ohio State.
Winston could also become the first Spartan since Cleaves, and the sixth overall, to be named a consensus All-American more than once.
Big Ten Champs
The Spartans have the chance to win three consecutive Big Ten regular season titles for the first time since they won four straight from 1998-2001.
The last school to win three straight regular season titles was Ohio State, who did so from 2010-2012, with the Spartans sharing a piece of two of those three.
A title would also be the tenth for Tom Izzo, which would make him one of only three coaches to win double digit Big Ten regular season titles. Ward Lambert and Bob Knight each have 11 championships.
Over the last two seasons MSU is 32-6 (.842) in Big Ten regular season games.