The regular season is done. The conference tournament is…well best to be forgotten. It’s now time for the main event of college basketball: The NCAA Men’s Tournament is here.
Michigan State is heading to the NCAA Tournament, earning coach Tom Izzo a historic 25th straight trip to the big dance.
It is a huge accomplishment to make it THIS consistently to the best event in all of sports. An achievement that can sometimes spoil us as Spartan fans.
Still we know it is not enough to get the invite - you have to DO something in March Madness.
Here are my shoot from the hip takes on the seeding. Like an end of shot clock heave, ready them and let me know what your deep shot after the game is in the comments.
POINT 1: The Seven Seed….Was deserved, but Geez Did the Big Ten Get Disrespected
Michigan State earned this seven seed. Towards the end of the season, the Spartans had some people calling for a surprise 5 seed, and most predictions giving them a six seed. The closing loss to Ohio State - done in dispiriting fashion at the Big Ten tournament (more on that later), meant MSU was destined for the seven seed. Considering Michigan State flirted with disaster a few times this season, the seven seed should be seen as a sign of strength. Even in a down year, the Spartans earned a respectable seed.
The same cannot be said of the Big Ten. In a year of unparalleled parity, the league was flirting with sending 9 teams for a second year in a row to the tournament for much of the year. Michigan, Rutgers and Wisconsin all had arguments late in the year for a spot in the big dance. For various reasons (not enough quality in their schedule - Michigan, end of season collapse after injury - Rutgers, and just not enough wins - Wisconsin) these teams were all understandably excluded.
That still left the conference with an impressive 8 teams in the field of 68.
The disrespect did not come in who was included, but how they were seeded. Purdue rightfully earned a number 1 seed after surviving an utterly chaotic Big Ten regular season - and an even more chaotic conference tournament.
After that though? Only Indiana (#4 seed) is in the top 16 teams. Northwestern got stuck with a 7 seed after having a historically good performance in conference play. Acknowledging that Penn State effectively “snuck” in with their regular season finale heroics and fascinating run at the Big Ten Tournament it’s not awful to seem them earn a 10 seed.
It’s the THREE big Ten teams, Iowa, Maryland, Illinois stuck on 8/9 seed lines that feel a little out of place. Even with the chaos of the Big Ten tournament, it feels like there are arguments for each of these three teams to also be a 7 seed alongside MSU, or even sneak up into a six seed. Perhaps if any of them had good showings in the Big Ten Tournament they might have. Still…this just isn’t fun for Big Ten teams.
The 8/9 seed line by definition sets you up against a team essentially your equal. Your prize for winning against a legitimate, usually battle tested team is a first weekend matchup against a number 1 seed. A number 1 seed usually coming off a glorified scrimmage against a 16 seed.
Potentially three Big Ten Teams against three of the top four teams in the country in the first weekend is fascinating. While it’s rough on the Big Ten teams, there is also an argument to be made this is tough on the top seeds.
Considering how wild and competitive the Big Ten was this year, I’d bet none of the top teams wants to see a Big Ten team anywhere on their bracket. Perhaps this “disrespect” will actually be the fuel that leads to a better overall showing for the Big Ten. Considering last year’s disaster of only one team getting out of the first weekend… we can all hope.
POINT 2: MSU’s Placement In the Bracket Was VERY Kind
The Spartans may want to quibble over the seven seed, but they should be thankful for their actual placement in the NCAA Tournament bracket.
From a matchup perspective, USC will be tough - just as anyone is this time of year. That said, USC does not feature a lineup that should scare the Spartans much.
USC relies on a very thin front court, and overall relies on freshmen. Their scoring can be all over the place with 9 of their last 18 games seeing them score 77 points or more, and the others being in the low 60s or even in the 50s.
If Michigan State can regain EITHER its end of season offense or its early to mid season defense, USC is beatable in either type of game. A big boon for MSU will be USC is very poor at rebounding, a key factor in some of the Spartans more disappointing losses.
Beyond USC, most likely lies Marquette. Any two seed in a year of wide spread parity should be a concern - but Michigan State has played with top teams since the season started. Marquette is very good - and a larger breakdown is warranted - but at a glance this is a pretty good pull. Compared to Arizona, Texas and UCLA (the latter two many thought deserved a 1 seed), I think most everyone would rather play Marquette.
Looking at the rest of this bracket, Kentucky looms as a potential second round matchup. A different team potentially today than when they last played the Spartans - but so are the Spartans.
Even Duke being in the region doesn’t feel that bad. First, because Duke would have to get past Purdue to matchup against the Spartans and second because this is not the Duke of old.
Generally, the East does not feel as stacked as some of the other regions. And the locations for the games benefit Michigan State. No long west coast trip for these Spartans.
The first and second round will be in (relatively) friendly Columbus, Ohio and the Sweet Sixteen in NYC.
The Spartans need to do a lot to get to that second weekend, but if they do, they will be playing in front of crowds they know with lots of alumni in the area.
A seven seed may not be what teams dream of, but this type of a draw AT that seed? It’s pretty darn good.
POINT 3: The Ohio State Hangover is Real, Let’s Hope Not For the Players
Michigan State has been a heart attack, a roller coaster, and an emotionally abusive partner ALL season.
For some reason after losses it has felt more despondent this year. The weaknesses exposed in MSU feel insurmountable after some losses.
On the flip side, the joy of watching MSU shoot the lights out for a run of four games to close the season was euphoric.
The truth is - as always - somewhere in the middle. Michigan State is NOT a legendary squad this year. Their shortcomings are too obvious and too permanent. The front court problems are real, the reliance on shooting is real, and the inconsistent defense is a harsh reality. That said the three point shooting has been good enough for so much of the season that that is true AS WELL. And when this team is rolling through its guards, it can play with anyone.
This is why the hangover from the Ohio State game seems strange. It was a massively disappointing loss. It came at a time where the Spartans felt like they were trending in the right direction - and instead came out and played as flat as they have all year.
Judging from the fans, my colleagues and the media in general it has left a near permanent pallor over the transition to NCAA coverage. Gone are the hot takes that picked the Spartans as a sleeper. Instead it feels like everyone is grim.
Hopefully this is just the fan base. Hopefully this is not a larger sense of disappointment that is coming from the team as well.
As a fan, this hangover feels real. Let’s hope these guys can play us through it.
Agree? Disagree? Let me know what you think in the comments.
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