Very rare do we see a number four seed stir up as much discussion for the national championship than we did this year when it was announced the Spartans would take on 13 seeded Delaware in the second round of the East region. Interestingly, this tournament features two number four seeded teams in MSU and defending champion Louisville in the Midwest region, however there seems to be consensus that the Spartans have the easier route to Dallas. During ESPN's annual post selection show analysis segment Sunday night, four experts picked the Spartans to not only make it out of the region, but to win the entire thing. Let's take a look at why the Spartans are such a trendy pick headed into the Big Dance.
Regardless of where Michigan State were going to be seeded, this team was entering this tournament playing some fantastic basketball. The Spartans played three games in Indianapolis and came away with three dominating performances by a team that has been fully healthy for all of two weeks. After battling numerous injuries all year, there were questions as to how quickly this veteran squad could jell and begin to play up to their elite expectations coming into the year. Losers of three out of their final four games heading into Indy, an exceptional showcase and a tournament win were far from a sure thing just a week ago. Nevertheless, the Spartans wound up defeating two teams in Wisconsin and Michigan that wound up as 2 seeds in the Big Dance and the momentum established by Michigan State has put the country on notice.
Barring a major upset, the Spartans will face either Harvard or Cincinnati in the third round. Tommy Amaker has the Crimson program at its highest point in a while as they enter their third straight NCAA tourney on the heels of another Ivy League championship. The Bearcats would present more problems for the Spartans if they defeat Harvard because of how athletic and battle tested Mick Cronin's team is. Sean Kilpatrick was one of the top players in the AAC this year and when he dominates, this team can be tough to beat.
It can be argued that the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd seeded teams in the East region are the weakest teams on their respective lines. If the Spartans make it to the second weekend they will likely play a combination of Virginia and either Villanova or Iowa State. Each of these teams is either unproven in March, or is coming off a bad loss in their conference tournament. Most experts, agree Michigan State's path to the Final Four is not only the easiest of any Big Ten team, but perhaps of any top 4 seed in the entire tournament. If they continue to play as they did in Indianapolis, the Spartans have to be the odds on favorite to cut down the nets in Dallas.