Monday, January 31, 2011

Michigan State: 13-8!?

MSU Basketball, unlike MSU football, is actually expected to be good year-in and year-out. This is largely due to Tom Izzo who has consistently made our team one of the best in the nation. While we don't have a ton of national titles we do have a lot of Final Four appearances including 2 consecutive. However, as the season now stands at 13-8 (and perhaps we'll finally drop out of the top 25) it seems somewhat doubtful that we'll even get seeded in the tournament. We have 5 more games against teams in the top 25 including the undefeated invincible Number 1 Ohio State Buckeyes. Most of our losses to this point have come against teams now in the top 25 but having a huge loss total isn't going to look too pretty for Tourney seating. 3-6 seeds in the tournament often do well enough and we have made the Final Four as a 5 seed 3 times now I believe, but we'll need to win almost every game for the rest of the season (losing to OSU won't matter) to attain one of those.

With a few more losses we may be relegated to the NIT, which is a nice consolation prize for Division II and III teams but essentially the dregs for us. While North Carolina managed to win the National title and then fail to get into the tournament the next year (last year) upstaging our pathetic failure, perhaps we can somehow pull it off and get into the tournament with a competent seed. If not losing as an 8-14 seed isn't all that bad, but falling into the NIT for the first time in a long ass while will make me sad.

Tom Izzo gets offers from the NBA every year for 5 million + per year to coach, and has always mentioned how much he admires NBA coaches and how it would be the "ultimate challenge." Fortunately our team has done consistently well over his entire tenure, but with a few terrible seasons perhaps he'll advance to the next level and leave us in the dust. Unlike in professional sports coaches actually do matter in the college ranks and losing Izzo would likely relegate us to only the fourth or fifth best team in the Big 10 most of the time. I would like to keep Izzo for as long as possible, even if we don't win another national title he is guaranteed to be in the College Basketball Hall of Fame one day.

As the BCS screwed us over in Football (catastrophic bowl loss not withstanding) the same sort of polling system seems to be our savior in Basketball, as we somehow managed to stay in the top 25 with 7 losses. We have consistently had very difficult schedules for the past 3-4 years, playing Duke and other ACC teams in the "Big Ten/ACC challenge" that our conference almost always loses horribly. However MSU was most often the lone bright spot in that challenge, but this year Ohio State seems to have taken the chalice of omnipotence and we our left in quite terrible shape.

I'm not exactly sure why but OSU somehow manages to have a top recruiting class every year despite only doing well with Greg Oden several years ago and otherwise failing to get all that far in the tournament. Yet we, with our previously historic form, have not managed to recruit at the same level. Usually Tom Izzo negates this as an issue but it's possible crossover from our usually terrible football team is what causes the recruitment backlash. We seem to have exclusively non "one and done" players, which is a heartwarming situation but still limits our potential by quite a lot, all of those players are stars at both the collegiate and professional levels but we seem to have been left with mostly talented but flawed players that take a while to improve. The only MSU players who have done reasonably well in the Professional ranks are Zack Randolph and Morris Peterson, but Ohio State has had Greg Oden, Evan Turner, and now Jared Sullinger in the past few years.

MSU doesn't exactly need a miracle to reach the NCAA tournament with 9 losses but I do think they need a miracle to obtain a decent seed. Tom Izzo is still somewhat unlikely to leave even if we do miss it entirely, but if the amount of money offered keeps going up I wouldn't be so sure. Assuming we take a while to recover he'll only look attractive as a professional coach for a couple more years so he would perhaps be more motivated to take an offer soon instead of tending to another MSU recovery effort after several years of success. The biggest reason I want MSU in the tournament is because they always seem to win me bracket challenges by surprisingly making it to the final four or championship (though it should be noted I've lost in the final game due to picking them numerous times as well), but filling out a bracket is still the most entertaining "fantasy" sports moment every year regardless.

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