A Hot Start for the Spartans Could Mean a Deep Tournament Run
After a 15-13 record and an early NCAA Tournament exit for Tom Izzo and the Spartans, no one knew really what to expect this year.
This year, they started the year unranked. The Spartans have always been a contender, but this year seemed to be one that would fly under the radar. Fast forward to now and the Spartans are now ranked 12th in the AP poll and are poised to continue to climb. Their best win is over 20th ranked Uconn and their losses came to top-ranked Baylor and 7th ranked Kansas. It is hard to look at losses in a positive way, but those losses are better than dropping a game you clearly shouldn't. With a four-game win streak and games coming up against Oakland and High Point to close out the year, the Spartans can crack the top 10 by the new year.
Their run hasn't been perfect by any means. If they want to keep winning, the turnovers have to stop. They average about 15 turnovers a game when Big Ten play is in full swing; that will not cut it. Their offense ranks top five in assists and rebounds per game but 8th in points per game. No, they haven't been perfect, but they are playing well and can continue to improve as the season goes on.
Once the new year starts, the Spartans will enter Big Ten play and have several chances to bolster their resume. Wins against ranked foes like Purdue and Ohio State will go a long way when it comes to tournament seeding. Wins against Michigan and Illinois will look good too despite them not being ranked. The Big Ten is always like a minefield when it comes to competition. Last year the conference sent nine teams to the dance, two of those getting number one seeds. ESPN has the Spartans sitting as four seed if the tournament would start today. Winning the Big Ten Tournament should get them in the number one line.
There is still a long way to go till March of course. Based on what we have seen from the Spartans so far, they are right in the mix at the top and hopefully, that will translate to a deep March run.