Credit: Raj Mehta/USA Today Sports
By Dylan Wittenberg
The Michigan Wolverine and Michigan State Spartan basketball teams have had very up and down seasons as we enter the Big Ten Tournament. Both have shown major deficiencies and bright spots, such as Michigan’s ability to shoot from deep and Michigan State’s ability to utilize top freshmen Miles Bridges and Nick Ward. The Wolverines sit at 20 wins and 11 losses and in comfortable position for a high single digit seed in the NCAA Tournament. Uncommonly, the Spartans sit with a worse record than their rivals at the end of the regular season, with 18 wins and 13 losses.
Although Michigan has all but sealed up a spot in March Madness, Michigan State is still a question mark at this point. Many pundits and analysts signed the Spartans off as a legitimate team after their win against Wisconsin on February 26th, but two straight losses have regenerated more questions about the team’s potential in the 64 team field.
Michigan State is not short on talent. Freshmen Cassius Winston and Josh Langford, besides the more notorious Bridges and Ward, have shown very positive signs as guards. Winston can command the floor, pass better than most players in the Big Ten, and score when open. Langford has found that he can both get open and hit big shots.
Surprisingly, the Spartans’ biggest issue is their experienced players. For weeks now it seems as if Tom Izzo has had a difficult time figuring out how to utilize Tum Tum Nairn and Alvin Ellis, both of whom have yet to discover formidable roles in the team’s lineup. Kyle Ahrens and Matt Van Dyke have been disappointments, as well. If Izzo’s older and more experienced players play up to their potential and feed off of the team’s young talent, a run is certainly in the cards.
Michigan State probably needs to win one more game to give them a for sure spot in the NCAA Tournament. That would need to come in their first game in the Big Ten Tournament against either Nebraska or Penn State. Should the Spartans do that, they will face Purdue with a chance to improve seeding. As of now, though, the Spartans do look like a team that will end up in the NCAA Tournament.