The Big Ten’s only game on Thursday night wasn’t all that enticing on paper, but ended with some significant implications for the league moving forward. Michigan State returned from its recent COVID-19 pause to go on the road to face Rutgers.
Let’s take a look at what happened.
Game of the Night:
-Rutgers Scarlet Knights 67, Michigan State Spartans 37
If somebody had told me Michigan State held Rutgers to 67 points and its lowest mark in three games, I probably would have thought the Spartans walked out of Piscataway with a win. Instead, Michigan State got run off the floor and fell by a 30-point margin. It was unquestionably the team’s worst loss of the season and Michigan State’s worst offensive showing of the season, finishing with a dreadful 37 points.
While Rutgers’ defense stole the show, the team’s offense also had an impact as well. Geo Baker finished with 11 points and Myles Johnson had 13 points and 14 rebounds in one of his more impressive showings of the season. The win pushed Rutgers to 9-6 overall, 5-6 in Big Ten play, and kept the team on the right side of the bubble. The Scarlet Knights have now won two-in-a-row for the first time since December 20th, when Rutgers topped Illinois.
For Michigan State, it’s hard to undersell how poor this showing was for the team. Yes, the team sat out nearly three weeks for a COVID-19 pause, but the Spartans looked downright awful on Thursday night. If Michigan State is going to keep Tom Izzo’s NCAA streak going, things are going to need dramatic improvement in the days ahead. The team’s offense looked out of sync and its stars underwhelmed.
And if you think the paragraph above is a bit hyperbolic, just look at how things are lining up in the weeks to come. Here’s Michigan State’s upcoming slate:
-Michigan State’s Next Seven Games (KenPom Odds To Win):
- 1/31 - at Ohio State (22%)
- 2/2 - at Iowa (14%)
- 2/3 - Nebraska (80%)
- 2/9 - Penn State (51%)
- 2/13 - Iowa (26%)
- 2/16 - at Purdue (32%)
- 2/20 - at Indiana (30%)
The games against Nebraska and Penn State look winnable, but not much else jumps out as a great opportunity. And if the Spartans don’t upset someone else, you’re talking about 10-10 overall record and a 4-10 mark in Big Ten play heading into the final three games (currently scheduled) of the regular season. Even if you think the Big Ten is deep, that’s not going to cut it on Selection Sunday. We’ll see what ends up happening.
Moving forward, Rutgers and Michigan State will both return to action on Sunday. The Scarlet Knights get Northwestern on the road while the Spartans travel to Ohio State.