What is wrong with the Michigan State Spartans?
Early season losses to Baylor, Kentucky, Duke, and Arizona were more than forgiveable. Two of those teams are among my 1 seeds right now. Michigan State has brought in a lot of freshmen this year and no one expected them to beat top teams in the nation right away. Tom Izzo even made the bizarre move of apologizing to his team for the difficulty of the schedule.
The thing is, Michigan State typically schedules anyone and everyone and it plays to their advantage when they get into the tough Big Ten play. As we head towards conference season, MSU would have no problem beating the likes of Northeastern at home, right?
Wrong. They lost 81-73 to Northeastern in East Lansing on Sunday night and as a result, they have fallen out of the field in my latest projection.
Other big moves happened around the cut line for at large teams too. The notable ones include Oklahoma State jumping into the field from the Fourth Four Out thanks to a 17-point win at Wichita State. Along the same lines, SMU jumped in from the Fourth Four Out after embarrassing Stanford by 23 points last night. VCU also joins the field from the First Four Out after an impressive win against Middle Tennessee.
The biggest loser in this update might not actually be Michigan State. It would be their fellow Big Ten competitor, Nebraska. With the 2nd toughest schedule to this point and a win over Dayton, Nebraska was in my First Four Out last Friday, even with a record at 5-5. But by losing at home to a team that sounds a lot like a furniture company – Gardner Webb, who is 272 in the RPI and 290 in SOS – the Huskers proved that playing tough opponents hasn’t helped them at all. Nebraska is now nowhere near the field.
And with that, here’s the new projection. Moves up or down are in parentheses.
1s: Baylor, Villanova, Kansas, Kentucky (+1, this had to happen after that classic over UNC)
2s: UCLA (-1, nothing against the Bruins but Kentucky scored the best win of the season on Saturday), Louisville, Gonzaga, North Carolina
3s: Duke, Xavier, Florida (+1), Creighton (-1)
4s: Butler, Florida State, Saint Mary’s (-1), Southern Cal (+1)
5s: Virginia (+1), Arizona (+1), Minnesota (-1), Temple
6s: Maryland (-1), South Carolina, Northwestern (+1), Dayton (-1)
7s: Indiana, Middle Tennessee (-1), Arkansas, Purdue (+1)
8s: West Virginia, Ole Miss (-1), Providence, Michigan (+1)
9s: TCU (+1), Pittsburgh, Wake Forest (-1), Notre Dame
10s: Georgia, Nevada, Cincinnati (+2), Wisconsin (+1)
11s: Houston, Oregon (+1), VCU (new), Oklahoma State (new), Auburn (-1)
12s: SMU (new), Rhode Island, Wichita State (-1), Texas-Arlington, UNC-Wilmington
13s: Tennessee State, IPFW, Valparaiso, Winthrop (+1)
14s: Ohio, New Mexico State (+1), Iona, Bucknell
15s: Chattanooga, New Hampshire (-2), Eastern Washington, Yale
16s: Sam Houston State, North Carolina Central, Florida Gulf Coast, Texas Southern, LIU-Brooklyn, UC-Irvine
Last Four In: Oklahoma State, Auburn, SMU, Rhode Island
First Four Out: Michigan State (prev. 9 seed), Stanford (prev. 11), Miami, Central Florida
Next Four Out: Charleston (prev. 12), Virginia Tech (+1), Illinois, Clemson
Third Four Out: Texas A & M, Davidson, North Carolina State (-1), Colorado (-1)
Fourth Four Out: Iowa State, Massachusetts (-1), Georgetown (+1), Vanderbilt (+1)
Others to Watch: Saint Bonaventure, Nebraska, St. Joe’s, Texas, Seton Hall, Marquette, Ohio State, LSU, La Salle, Illinois State
And with that, time to go catch the call of Bill Walton, easily the greatest announcer in college basketball, on Pac 12 Network. I’ll be back in the next few days with another update.