NCAA tournament team previews: Michigan State Spartans
As part of its preview of the 2015 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, SI.com is taking a look at all 68 teams in the field. RPI and SOS data from realtimerpi.com. Adjusted offense and defense are from kenpom.com and measure the number of points scored and allowed per 100 possessions, and the team’s national rank. All stats are through Monday, March 16.
Record: 21-10 (12-6 Big Ten)
Adjusted offensive/defensive efficiency: 114.1 (14th)/96.1 (53rd)
Seed: East No. 7
Impact Player: Denzel Valentine, junior, forward. 14.5 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 113.7 offensive rating
The Case For: Well, it's March, so ... you have the give the Spartans a shot, right? Since 2000, Tom Izzo's Michigan State teams are a combined 36-14 in the NCAA tournament which can only mean two things—either Izzo is a wizard or just a really good tournament coach. (The latter seems more plausible.)
He's done it as high-seeds and low ones, so even though Michigan State might not be as highly slotted as it has been in the past, it likely won't make a difference. In addition, these Spartans got better as the season continued. They closed the regular season slate with a 6-2 mark, with wins over Ohio State and Purdue and road victories Illinois and Indiana. Plus, remember this: Michigan State is among the top-five teams in the country in assists per game, and ball movement is critical at this time of year.
The Case Against: There's a lot to like about Sparty, but there is a major, glaring hole in the résumé, and it's their failure to beat an elite team. The Spartans lost to Duke, Kansas, Notre Dame, Maryland (twice), and Wisconsin. That indicates that while Michigan State is a very good team, it may be a step below the caliber of teams that are serious contenders for the Final Four and national championship.
Izzo's team may be able to handle its first game against Georgia, but looming is a potential matchup against a No. 1 seed disguised as a No. 2 in Virginia. Michigan State will have to wait to see if it can get that first signature victory.
SI Prediction: Beat Georgia in the Round of 64, lose to Virginia in the Round of 32