CBB: Michigan State at a crossroads as Big Ten play ramps up

darren cooper
By:
Darren Cooper
08/01/2024/
NCAAB

Highlights

  • Michigan State enters Thursday night’s showdown with No. 9 Illinois at 1-3 in the Big Ten. Spartans coach Tom Izzo has never started 1-4 in conference play.
  • The Spartans are 9-6 overall, and 8-7 against the spread at Michigan sportsbooks. Their last seven games have all hit the over.
  • Michigan State owns a 25-year streak of making the NCAA Tournament, the third longest streak in the history of college basketball.

Will the real Michigan State Spartans men’s basketball team please stand up?

The Spartans started the season ranked No. 4 in the nation, struggled from the jump, but then looked like a national title contender in a beatdown of Baylor at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit. That started a five-game win streak.

But after losing - badly - to Northwestern Sunday night, the Spartans are 9-6, way back in the Big 10. 

Michigan sports bettors can wager on the Spartans for every game left on their Big 10 schedule. DraftKings Sportsbook has future bets available on the winner of the NCAA Tournament and who will win the Big 10. Caesars has game props for each Spartans contest.

As the season hits the halfway mark, is there reason to be worried about the Spartans NCAA Tournament streak?

Yes, Worry Now 

The Spartans just haven’t played the style of defense that fans have grown used to with Izzo at the helm. Michigan State is middle of the pack in any defensive rating. While they are unselfish with the ball on offense, they have only shot better than 50 percent from the floor in five games. They are poor at shooting the 3.

Throw in the fact that a heralded freshman class has underperformed and, it’s not good. Plus, the schedule is brutal - of course - State has 16 conference games left, including a trip to No. 1 Purdue.

No, In Izzo We Trust 

On the flip side, you can look at Michigan State and say, yes, they were overrated, but they’ve also played an extremely difficult non-conference schedule. They played Duke, Arizona and Baylor. They lost to Duke and Arizona, but clobbered then No. 6 Baylor.

Right now, they seem like a team that’s better at home then on the road, but they have plenty of experience. Tyson Walker and Malik Hall have played well. AJ Hoggard has shown some flashes. None of the State big men have performed, but there’s still time.

Big Ten basketball is hot gyms, cold nights and tough rivalries. It’s Izzo basketball. Plus, you know if Michigan State can get close to 20 wins, or the top half of the Big 10, the committee will let them in.

Will State get in? 

It’s not going to be easy. Michigan State is in a four-way tie at the bottom of the Big 10. There are a lot of teams they have to pass. They’re going to need win games at home, where they hopefully shoot better, and try to spring an upset on the road somewhere.

Beating Purdue would be huge, of course, so would beating Illinois. Those type of quality victories are ones that the NCAA Tournament committee traditionally give weight to. It’s way too early to say this, but right now, Michigan State is firmly on the bubble.

Born and raised in Louisiana, Darren Cooper has a fond appreciation for bayous, Mardi Gras beads and the sports betting industry. Darren has worked for multiple print and online publications since 1998, primarily as a sports columnist in the Northeast. He’s covered a Super Bowl (it was a blowout), the World Series (same) and the NBA Draft (man, those guys are tall). For the last few years he’s dug deep into the sports gambling industry as it exploded across America, learning how the legal sausage is made and how while all the sportsbooks look the same, they all have different identities and styles. He’s learned to always bet within his means -- and take the under. When not in front of his computer creating, Darren spends time with his three boys. He runs, reads and is always looking for the next big thing to write about.