The COVID-19 pandemic caused the postponement of a total of four of Michigan State University’s Big Ten basketball games. The Spartans made up the road game at Iowa on Feb. 2. The home game versus Illinois will now be played this coming Tuesday on Feb. 23. Finally, the last two games have been rescheduled:
Schedule Updates— Michigan State Basketball (@MSU_Basketball) February 20, 2021
We will host Indiana on 3/2 at 8 PM ET on BTN.
We will play at Michigan on 3/4, time TBD, on ESPN. pic.twitter.com/PoZRRmVl3M
The Spartans will host the Indiana Hoosiers on Tuesday, March 2. The game will tip at 8 p.m. on the Big Ten Network. Then, two nights later on Thursday, March 4, the Spartans will make the drive to Ann Arbor to face the Michigan Wolverines.
Starting this Saturday, MSU is now scheduled to play seven total conference games over the span of 16 days. This will include spans with only one day of rest and preparation between the contests between Illinois (Feb. 23) and Ohio State (Feb. 25) this coming week and a brutal three-games-in-five days stretch from Feb. 28 (at Maryland) to March 4 (at Michigan, with Indiana in the middle.)
This revised schedule also means that the Spartans will face the Wolverines back-to-back over a four-day span. Unless COVID-19 causes another round of cancellations, it now appears that MSU will complete the full 20-game Big Ten schedule.
On its face, this is a very challenging schedule. This final slate of seven games is the most difficult remaining schedule in the conference. Playing those seven games in rapid succession makes it even more challenging.
However, as the Chief Optimism Officer, I am going to choose to look on the bright side of the situation for the following reasons:
- Of those seven games, there are only five unique opponents as MSU still has to play Indiana and Michigan twice. This reduces the preparation time.
- Of those seven games, five of them are in the state of Michigan and MSU only needs to leave the state once (to go to Maryland) after tomorrow’s contest at Indiana.
- Coach Izzo is playing a lot of guys this year, so fatigue is less of a concern than it would have been last year, for example, when Cassius Winston and XavierTillman were playing around 35 minutes a game.
- MSU needs more chances to win games. I am not ready to simply give up on the idea that the Spartans can turn things around and still make the NCAA Tournament. It is still a long shot, but the odds are virtually zero if MSU does not play a full schedule.
- Although it is also very, very long shot, the scenario still exists where MSU beats Michigan twice in four days, denies the Wolverines a Big Ten title, and secures an NCAA Tournament bid in the process.
To that last point, I know that this idea seems ridiculous based on what we have seen so far on the court. In my defense, I will only remind the reader that when MSU was a 23-point underdog on the gridiron last fall in Ann Arbor, no one thought that the Spartans would win, and yet they did.
Similarly, in 2019, no one would have dreamed that MSU would beat Michigan three-straight times to claim both the Big Ten regular season and Big Ten Tournament titles, and yet they did.
Based on the current odds, I would project the odds for MSU to win both games against Michigan at about 1.5 percent. But, the odds also suggest that there is about a 25 percent chance that MSU can steal at least one of the two games against the rival Wolverines, assuming that MSU does not play any better than it is right now (according to Kenpom efficiencies). That is about five time higher than the odds of winning a football game as a 23-point underdog.
I don’t know about you, but even if MSU’s season comes to an end in the Big Ten Tournament, a late season win over Michigan would be a nice consolation prize.
Still not convinced? Then try this video:
Real Spartans stand tall through it all!! pic.twitter.com/HQb4j0HJ5c— Mateen Cleaves (@Mateen_Cleaves) February 17, 2021