22 games in and who would've thought the pre-season No. 2 team, the Michigan State Spartans, would share the same conference record as the Penn State Nittany Lions? Tom Izzo's team lost its fourth contest in five games and its fifth overall road game- the same number of losses the Spartans had in the last two seasons combined. With its latest defeat coming at the hands of Big Ten doormat, Iowa.
The five starters combined to shoot 12-of-41 (29.3 percent) and 19-of-56 as a whole for the game as they were not only outrebounded, but smacked around in a dominating first half performance by the Hawkeyes. They opened the game on 15-2 run and never looked back. So now, where does this put the Spartans come Selection Sunday?
A team we thought would finish atop the ultra-competitive Big Ten with most of its roster still intact from a Final Four run a year ago, is just 13-9 overall and 5-5 in conference play. Turnovers and poor shooting percentages have plagued Michigan State all season long and are evidenced by losses to Iowa, Michigan, Illinois, Penn State, Texas, Syracuse and Duke. Certainly they have no slouch of a schedule with a strength of schedule ranked sixth, buts its latest losses to Michigan and Iowa are to sub-50 RPI losses and the team is now firmly on the bubble and even sliding off. But the benefit of playing such a rigorous schedule in the non-conference and Big Ten means that with games against Wisconsin, Ohio State, Illinois, Minnesota and Purdue on the schedule, they have time to make up ground. Of course, they could also continue on their current track and suffer even further.