Michigan State will enter the NCAA Tournament with a 29-4 record. The Spartans won the Big Ten outright by posting a 16-2 record. They have two lottery picks in Jaren Jackson Jr. and Miles Bridges. This is far and away Tom Izzo’s most talented team.
And yet, there’s just something off. Something tough to define but no less real. Something attached to this team that must be removed if they are to reach a Final Four or — as has been the only goal since Day 1 — win a national championship.
Izzo must find it, either by himself or with the help of his players. Otherwise, we’ll see a repeat what happened this afternoon at Madison Square Garden where Michigan posted its second double-digit victory of the year over MSU.
A premature exit and unrealized dreams.
Any hope of a 1-seed evaporated in a New York minute. The Spartans may have also played their way out of an opening weekend trip to Detroit.
It was supposed to be easier than this. It sure seems like it could be easier than Michigan State tends to make it. All season they have played down to competition and stumbled out of the blocks. They’ve dug massive holes but usually found a way to claw out of them, including, of course, the historic 27-point comeback at Northwestern.
It seems weird to say that a team that just put 13 straight wins together was struggling, but it’s true. Eight of the last 10 MSU victories have been by single-digits. Four have been by three points and decided in the final seconds. Is this a testament to the team’s ability to win close games or a glaring red signal flare suggesting trouble ahead?
And can it be both?
Izzo and company will likely retain its position as Vegas favorites to win it all. This is undoubtedly the best chance to bring a title to East Lansing since 2000. Confidence should be abounding. Instead it feels as if something bad is closing in, just waiting to strike. Spartans fans are holding their breath, but more out of fear than excitement.
All buyers should be aware. It promises to be a white-knuckle ride, even if it ends in ultimate success.
It’s one thing to have a huge margin for error and win games without playing well. It’s another to do just that than, you know, actually play well.
Twenty-nine victories and a conference crown should leave the glass more than half-full. And yet …