Michigan State's NCAA Tournament streak in danger after home loss to Northeastern
Spartans could be in danger of missing NCAA tournament after their latest loss to Northeastern
Michigan State's subpar start to the season could be attributed to a barrage of injuries. Or even to the Spartans' travel schedule, which featured trips to Maui, New York and the Bahamas in a three-week span.
Oh yeah, they also traveled to Durham to face Duke, played Kentucky in the Champions Classic, and played Baylor and Wichita State in consecutive games in the Battle 4 Atlantis. So that could explain it, too.
No one denies the Spartans have had a tough schedule.
Heck, Tom Izzo himself felt bad for his team following the loss to Baylor. So much so that he apologized.
Said Izzo: "I actually apologized to my team. And yet, I've always played a tough schedule. ... You know what? You can take it as an excuse, you can take it as the truth, I don't give a damn. I'm telling you what I did. This ain't on them. It's on me."
Fast forward one month, and another loss -- to Northeastern, 81-73, on Sunday -- may come back to haunt the Spartans.
So what do we make of this loss -- and what does it mean to the big picture for Sparty?
1. Michigan State's razor-thin depth is one of the biggest reasons for their struggles.
Tom Izzo's bench has been brutally short. Most notably, they've been without starter Gavin Schilling all season, and star freshman Miles Bridges has been out the past few weeks with a lower leg injury.
At the time Bridges went down, Izzo suggested he would be out for "at least a couple weeks." Schilling, who hasn't played at all, should be back. At what point, no one really knows.
He's not a guy who will give you a ton of scoring, but he's a senior. He has experience. He has good size. And most importantly, he could add depth. Something Michigan State will welcome with open arms.
2. Michigan State's NCAA Tournament streak could be in jeopardy.
The Spartans have made a ridiculous 19 straight NCAA Tournament appearances. That's the very definition of consistency in college basketball. But that might end this season.
Some of the early season losses could be explained away with injuries or travel. Losing to Arizona, Baylor, Duke, and Kentucky? Most teams would.
However Michigan State had eight days rest between games to prepare for Northeastern and laid an egg on its home floor. When Izzo emails his resume to the NCAA Tournament committee, this loss will be particularly damning.
3. This puts more pressure on Michigan State in Big Ten play
Losing to Northeastern in itself won't get a team nixed from NCAA Tournament consideration, obviously. The circumstances surrounding each team is taken into consideration when seeding comes around. That's something that may play in Michigan State's favor.
How did Michigan State lose to Northeastern? Miles Bridges and Gavin Schilling were out with injuries. So that will almost definitely be considered in March.
Not to say the NCAA won't gloss over this one. But should Schilling and Bridges return, the committee will also take into account how the team looks when it is at full strength. If Michigan State can get healthy before then, this loss could be filed deep in Izzo's office. But that's easier said than done, with Big Ten Conference play beginning in less than two weeks.
Michigan State is 7-5 with one more nonconference game to play -- against 9-1 Oakland on Wednesday -- before the Big Ten schedule begins. The Spartans went 13-5 in conference last season en route to a second-place finish. They might need to be just as good, because one or two fewer wins might be dicey.
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