As is the usual in East Lansing, Tom Izzo has his team peaking at exactly the right time. Heading into the B1G tournament this week, the Spartans have won 10 of their last 11 following a frustrating three game losing streak right at the beginning of conference play.
Between Tom Izzo and USA Today's National Player of the Year Denzel Valentine, the Spartans are heading into the conference tournament as the likely favorite to win it all this week in Indianapolis.
Let's take a look at what Spartans fans can expect from their team this week and into the weekend, should they advance.
The Spartans finished the season very strong, finishing 13-5 in the conference and as was mentioned, winning 10 of their last 11 with the lone loss being a one point overtime defeat in West Lafayette to the Purdue Boilermakers. Their strong season and fantastic finish has earned them the two seed, in a half of the bracket that seems very favorable to the Spartans.
They'll face the winner of the Thursday night 7/10 matchup between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Penn State Nittany Lions. Should the #7 seed Ohio State win that game, Michigan State will certainly go into Friday rested and extremely confident. That game would come exactly 6 days after a 15 point Spartans home win over the Buckeyes who are without their best player, Ja'Sean Tate for the remainder of the year.
In the event, however, that the Buckeyes cannot overcome the Nittany Lions, then Michigan State will go in supremely confident and ready to play. In their two meetings with Penn State this season, Sparty has won by a combined 180-122. That works out to an average margin of 29 points per game for the Spartans against a Penn State team that they seem to have far too much talent and depth for.
If They Advance
The Spartans are a combined 8-2 against their half of the bracket, and they wouldn't play a team that owns one of the two victories until a potential semifinal meeting. The #11 seed Nebraska Cornhuskers and #6 seed Wisconsin Badgers each own one point victories over the Spartans from their three game losing streak early in the conference slate.
It seems nearly certain that should they advance, they would play the winner of a Wisconsin/Maryland Terrapins game in their semifinal.
The prospect of a Maryland - Michigan State semifinal would be an impossible game to ignore. Maryland is arguably the most talented team in the Big Ten and one of the more talented teams in the country. It's been a year of struggling to live up to great expectations for the Terrapins, but on any given day, that talent could win out.
Should the Badgers come out victorious in the assumed game with Maryland, it would set up another interesting matchup. In Madison earlier this year, Wisconsin stole a one point victory. When these teams met more recently in East Lansing, however, it was an entirely different script. Michigan State had firm control of the game throughout, finishing with a 12 point victory.
Should either the Badgers or Terrapins get through (and assuming Michigan State advances), it would set up a wonderful Saturday game. In a one game, winner move on scenario, anything at all can happen. Every year, we see a team that is expected to win and advance get beat.
Could that be the Spartans this year?
Frankly, I don't think so. This team is so hot and Tom Izzo is one of the best February-April coaches that college basketball has ever seen. With B1G and USA Today National Player of the Year Denzel Valentine captaining the ship, it seems that the Spartans are an unstoppable force with a destination for Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on Sunday afternoon for the B1G Championship game.
Should the Spartans win 3 games in 3 days and claim the conference crown, it puts them in a very good spot to pick up a potential #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. As the team rounds into form, it has become apparent again as it was at the start of the year that this is one of the top 5 teams in the country.