The Bracketology Report: Michigan State

Updated: February 18, 2004, 2:01 PM ET
By By Tom Durso | Insider Bracketologist

Editor's note: Each week Bracketology Insider will take an in-depth look at teams headed for the NCAA Tournament ... or not.

Week in review
Michigan State (InsideRPI No. 45, SOS No. 20) has done a nice job over the last few weeks winning the games it's supposed to win. This became necessary after the Spartans ambitiously took on the country's eighth-toughest non-conference schedule, only to watch the losses pile up early on.

True to form, though, the Spartans notched a pair of victories against inferior competition over the last week to keep themselves at the top of the Big Ten. Not that it was an easy task: Four days after getting embarrassed by Illinois (InsideRPI No. 35, SOS No. 74), Tom Izzo's squad needed a late run to squeeze past unexpectedly competitive Minnesota (InsideRPI No. 153, SOS No. 80), 69-58, last Saturday.

That set up a rematch with Purdue (InsideRPI No. 82, No. 156), which on Jan. 25 had edged the Spartans in overtime. Tuesday's game wasn't a work of art, with the teams combining to shoot just 35-for-93 from the floor, but Michigan State canned 24-of-26 from the line and was happy to pocket a 62-55 win and move into a first-place tie with Wisconsin (InsideRPI No. 17, SOS No. 33).

Coming up
Winnable games continue to dot Michigan State's schedule over the next week. The Spartans host Northwestern (InsideRPI No. 100, SOS No. 64) Saturday and visit Michigan (InsideRPI No. 64, SOS No. 67) next Tuesday.

The Spartans already own a victory over the Wildcats, a comfortable 73-61 triumph on Jan. 21, and Northwestern is a lousy team on the road. This one shapes up as a "W" for the Spartans. But traveling to Michigan is never a picnic, and the Wolverines will be looking to avenge a 17-point spanking by MSU on Jan. 17.

MSU has a relatively easy next couple of weeks before squaring off against Wisconsin in its regular-season finale. The Big Ten is scuffling through an off year, so finishing as high as possible in the conference would go a long way toward strengthening the Spartans' case for a tourney invitation.

"Planting Seeds"
Michigan State was No. 42 this week on The Bracketology Report national seeding chart. This placed the Spartans just ahead of the "last four in" among the projected NCAA field, though that was before Tuesday's win over Purdue.

After playing a vicious non-conference slate and then opening their Big Ten schedule with a loss to Wisconsin, the Spartans found themselves dragging around a very atypical 5-7 record. But they've come alive at the right time, streaking through their league schedule to put themselves solidly on the right side of the bubble.

Michigan State can't afford a letdown -- with nine losses, its margin for error is miniscule -- and its two remaining road games are practically "must" wins. Still, a trip to the NCAA Tournament is no longer the pipe dream it appeared in mid-January.

Games of the Week
Michigan State fans should root FOR and AGAINST the teams in ALL CAPS.
For KENTUCKY @ Auburn (Sat.)
Maryland @ DUKE (Sun.)
Against Louisiana St. @ VANDERBILT (Sat.)
UAB @ Memphis (Sat.)

Inside the Numbers
Additional considerations for the NCAA Selection Committee include:
"Good" wins
(vs. RPI 1-25) NONE
(vs. RPI 26-50) DePaul
(vs. RPI 51-100) Michigan, Indiana, Iowa
"Bad" losses
(vs. RPI 101-200) @UCLA
(vs. RPI sub-200) NONE
Record vs. projected field (2-9)
Win: DePaul, Coppin State
Loss: @Kansas, Duke, N-Oklahoma, N-Kentucky, @UCLA, @Syracuse, Wisconsin, @Purdue, Illinois
Record vs. at-large pool (1-0)
Win: Indiana
Loss: NONE
Reason(s) to INCLUDE Michigan State
  • 9-3 Big Ten record
  • SOS No. 20; NonConf SOS No. 7
  • Reason(s) to EXCLUDE Michigan State
  • 1-7 vs. RPI Top 50
  • LunaRPI" (road/neutral) No. 76
  • Season breakdown (14-9, 8-3)
    All RPI data through Monday, Feb. 17

    Date       Opponent          Result        Opp. RPI       Opp. SOS
    11/21      Bucknell          64-52           246            244
    11/25      @Kansas           74-81 (L)       18             7
    11/29      Pennsylvania      77-52           104            129
    11/30      DePaul            89-81           48             79

    12/3 Duke 50-72 (L) 2 5 12/6 N-Oklahoma 77-80 (L, ot) 34 44 12/13 N-Kentucky 74-79 (L) 3 5 12/16 South Florida 73-60 184 98 12/20 @UCLA 58-64 (L) 102 61 12/30 Coppin State 78-72 259 320

    1/3 @Syracuse 83-96 (L) 37 56 1/10 @Wisconsin 64-77 (L) 17 33 1/14 Penn State 76-58 138 81 1/17 Michigan 71-54 64 67 1/21 @Northwestern 73-61 100 64 1/25 @Purdue 70-76 (L, ot) 82 156 1/28 @Minnesota 79-78 (ot) 153 80 1/31 Indiana 84-72 66 37

    2/4 Iowa 89-72 77 70 2/7 @Ohio State 84-70 136 130 2/10 @Illinois 51-75 (L) 35 74 2/14 Minnesota 69-58 153 80 2/17 Purdue 62-55 82 156 2/21 Northwestern 100 64 2/24 @Michigan 64 67 2/28 @Penn State 138 81

    3/2 Wisconsin 17 33 3/11 BIG TEN CONFERENCE

    Joe Lunardi's forecast (Feb. 17)
    Chance of NCAA top seed: 0 percent
    Chance of NCAA "protected" (1-4) seed: 0 percent
    Chance of NCAA bid: 65 percent
    Chance of NCAA at-large bid: 55 percent
    Chance of NIT bid: 30 percent
    Chance of missing post-season: 5 percent