Michigan State is on the bubble for the 2021 NCAA Tournament – a rare spot for the Big Ten powerhouse.
The Spartans appeared in 22 straight tournaments under Tom Izzo. Michigan State's last recall was in the second season of Izzo in 1996–97. Michigan State (14–10) started the 2020–21 season with six straight wins, but lost four of its first six Big Ten games before three games were postponed due to COVID-19.
The Spartans, however, are only scoring one in time for March. Will it be enough to make a big dance?
More: Projecting a field of 68 for the 2021 NCAA tournament.
Can Michigan State Make NCAA Tournament?
Sporting News had Michigan State as “one of the first four” in the latest field of 68. ESPN considers the Spartans to be among the “Final Four”. Latest bracketology.
Michigan State improved its position with a 64-58 win against Indiana on Tuesday.
Michigan State and Big Ten Tournaments
The Spartans are ranked ninth in the Big Ten, meaning they would have to win four games to gain an automatic bid of the conference in the NCAA tournament. Michigan State won the last Big Ten tournament in 2019 and has the most conference tournament championships with six.
The Spartans could boost their tournament case with a rare double-header with their biggest rival starting on Thursday.
Michigan State plays at No. 2 Michigan on Thursday, and the state's opponent will play the second game on Sunday in East Lansing. The Wolverines will bring the regular-season championship to victory with either game, so the Spartans will have a chance to spoil their tournament case and extend their tournament case over the next five days.
Michigan State has won four of the last five meetings in the series. Teams can also play again in the Big Ten tournament.
Michigan State is 3–2 against the top 10 teams this season, and includes back-to-back wins against Illinois and Ohio State. An early-season win against Duke – which is in a rare position to be on the tournament bubble – could also come into play with the selection committee.
The Spartans play the Big Ten this season, going 2-7 with lone wins against Indiana and Nebraska. This Thursday the road games in Michigan have a slightly higher significance.
Kenpom, RPI, SOS and Quadrants
How Michigan State Makes March Madness
Izzo's reputation as a coach that most resembles his teams in March. The Spartans have won four of their last five matches, and this has pushed them back into NCAA tournament discussion.
A sweep against the Wolverines would give Michigan State a 500 record in Big Ten play and create a virtual lock to get the Spartans to the NCAA tournament.
A split against Michigan and a win in the Big Ten tournament – likely against Rutgers or Maryland – would also be enough to get Michigan State out of the bubble.
If the Wolverines cross Michigan State, this road becomes too long. These next two games can be as important as the Big Ten tournament.