When the AP's Top 25 came out earlier this week, I was shocked to see Michigan State still on it, admittedly just holding on, at #25. Regardless, they were on it, despite a 12-7 record, with exactly two wins on the road--Northwestern and Chaminade. Michigan State plays a tough schedule, and they have Tom Izzo, who always has his teams playing their best when it matters, so I get the reluctance to hold their losses against them, for awhile. But surely, I was going to argue, losing to Penn State on the road (and yes, I know of and like Talor Battle (it is pronounced "Taylor" but spelled like an angry barbarian version!)) and barely squeaking by Northwestern at home should mean that the Spartans are just not a Top 25 team right now.
"What will it take for the AP to follow the lead of the ESPN/USA Today poll and drop Michigan State?" I was going to ask. I'd follow that up with a sarcastic, "Maybe lose to Michigan at home? Will that be enough to drop them?" I didn't think that would happen, but happen it did, and I think that should do it.
And it may be time to acknowledge that this isn't one of those years wherein Michigan State plays a tough schedule and gets beat up in the rankings, only to get to March and destroy teams on their way to the Final Four. This team needs to get going to even make it to the Dance.
Think that's a crazy idea? A tough schedule only works if you win some of those games--and by "tough", I mean good teams, on the road--losses to UConn, Duke, Syracuse, Illinois, and Purdue don't hurt you, unless you don't have much in the way of quality wins. And the Spartans are lacking those. Beating Washington and Minnesota in East Lansing are decent wins, but not unexpected, and I don't know if those wins overcome tonight's loss to Michigan (or just how close those wins against Northwestern were, for that matter). With the current rankings in place, the Spartans have five games against Top 25 teams left on their schedule, with three of them on the road. They'll need to win those two at home, and more importantly, at least one on the road to give the committee something to think about. And the way they are playing right now, that scenario seems pretty unlikely.