Helped by the late-season stumbles of its top in-conference competitors, MSU is poised for its first solo B1G regular season title in nearly a decade, and with its only 3 losses on the season all coming to nationally ranked, Q1 teams, you would think they would be in prime position for a top seed. As we’ll revisit later, you would apparently think wrong in this world we’re living in in 2018.
The Spartans wrap up the regular season with a trip to woebegone wisconsin on Sunday, and if they play anything better than a D- game, should win handily.
/books flight to West Coast
///argues with rental agent about use of Gold Plus rewards points for a free additional day
////drives to Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park, fuming about Derek the Effing Rental Car Guy’s nerve the entire way
/////knocks on all the vast and resplendent wood to be found in said locale
//////purchases sweatshirt which will be worn once and then donated to Goodwill
///////I mean Derek, don’t be such a pissant, they’re not your cars and they’re not your reward points, all you really have here is the power to determine what kind of start some stranger’s vacation/basketball mojo-reservation trip gets off to and you’re wielding it like you’re Russell Crowe in Master & Commander -
Come the conference tournament, MSU is assured of a double bye regardless of the outcome of the remaining regular season games. If they hang on to the top BTT seed, their first game would be the winner of the 8-9 matchup. Maryland appears quite likely to be set in the 8-seed; the 9 could be either Northwestern or wisconsin. These are all flawed, injury-riddled teams who nonetheless posed challenges in various ways for MSU in their regular season matchups.
In any individual game, I would consider MSU the favorite to win as I did through the entirety of the regular season, but obviously the Spartans aren’t sitting here undefeated. It’s tough to call a tournament winner, though, as you never know who will catch fire or, just spitballing here, stage an elaborate faked plane crash to motivate the team to come together and play miles above their collective middling heads. You just never can tell.
I’m sure the NCAA Tournament Committee meant well when they implemented these new seeding criteria and this batshit insane quadrant system. But the road to wisconsin is paved with good intentions.
The most recent Sports Illustrated bracketology designates MSU as a 2-seed in the Midwest region with Xavier as the 1.
As an MSU fan, that’s not a bracket I would entirely mind, as the Spartans would match up fairly well with Xavier and the rest of the stronger teams in that projection - Clemson, Texas A&M, Creighton - don’t inspire much fear.
West Virginia is the one in that projected bracket I would worry about. MSU’s persistent weakness, one which has always been there but has been especially bad this season, is turnovers. What has Press Virginia built their current program on? Hyperaggressive, rugby-style, turnover-churning full-court pressure. What usually happens in the tournament? Refs sit back and let the players play for the most part. West Virginia is the one team in that projected region I wouldn’t feel confident in beating.
And for what it’s worth, that line probably isn’t going to change. There just aren’t enough Q1 wins available in the BTT to push MSU past enough of the teams ahead of them, many of whom do have more opportunities in their own conference tourneys to rack impressive wins.
An early BTT exit or bad loss to the badgers in the regular-season finale could conceivably shove MSU as low as the 3-line if dominoes fall right elsewhere, but you better believe there would be 2 higher-seeded coaches furious about their draw if that happened.
As noted earlier, predicting something as random-number-generatory as a tournament of 68 is a fool’s errand. But there’s no reason the preseason expectations should be adjusted. If the team has been inconsistent at times, they are still a fairly young group and have had the mother of all off-court distractions to deal with. But for the most part, they have looked the part of a preternaturally talented and well-balanced team and should at least be there for the last weekend.