The first pair of entries that I originally touched on in my brief podcast on Friday, February 3 come from the Big Ten:
Michigan State Spartans
Current Record: 14-9, 6-4 in conference play.
RPI: 48 according to RealTimeRPI.com, 49 according to KenPom.com
Key Wins: November 25 on neutral site vs. Wichita State, Minnesota twice (December 27 on the road and January 11 in East Lansing), December 30 vs. Northwestern.
Bad Losses: November 11 vs. Arizona, Nov. 15 vs. Kentucky, Nov. 24 vs. Baylor (those three games were on neutral sites), November 29 at Duke, December 18 vs. Northeastern, and January 24 vs. Purdue.
Analysis: According to CBSSports.com, the Spartans are 2-5 against the RPI’s Top 25 and 4-3 against teams ranked 51-100 in the RPI. Currently standing in fifth place one game behind surprising Northwestern, Tom Izzo is relying on Cassius Winston and a healthy Miles Bridges to pull through. The Spartans still have four games each both at home and on the road, with the bigger tilts coming Tuesday night at Michigan (9 p.m. Eastern on ESPN), February 18 at Purdue (4 p.m. ESPN or ESPN2), and just announced earlier on Monday, their home game with Wisconsin will be played on Sunday, February 26 with a 4 p.m. Eastern time tip on CBS.
Percentage Chance of reaching the Big Dance: 65 percent, since Tom Izzo usually uses this time to kick things up into high gear. But losing big men Gavin Schilling and Ben Carter back in October to season-ending knee injuries could spell doom when the brackets are released. It isn’t because of a lack of effort since Michigan State teams pride themselves on playing hard at both ends of the floor during the entire 40 minutes. In the end, what will the Selection Committee be using as credible criteria?
Current Record: 15-9, 5-6 in conference play.
RPI: 73, 41 according to KenPom.com
Key Wins: November 11 on neutral court vs. Kansas, November 30 vs. North Carolina, and January 21 vs. Michigan State.
Bad Losses: November 22 at IPFW, December 17 on neutral court vs. Butler, December 31 on neutral court vs. Louisville, Wisconsin twice (January 3 in Bloomington and February 5 on the road), December 28 vs. Nebraska, January 10 at Maryland, January 26 at Michigan, and January 29 at Northwestern.
Analysis: The Hoosiers have only one road win all season and they only played one true road game during the non-conference portion of the schedule. They are a pitiful 2-5 against the RPI’s Top 25. Luckily, they get one more chance to get it right with averaging 82 points per game–which is good enough for second place in the Big Ten. Their five point loss on Super Sunday in Wisconsin will not help. Hosting Northwestern on Saturday the 25th and going north to their longtime in-state rival Purdue to wrap up February will be huge.
Percentage Chance of reaching the Big Dance: 40 percent, since they have really fizzled since the holiday season ended. If they don’t win those two games, they would have to at least reach the Big Ten Tournament final in New York to have a realistic chance of possibly hearing their name called on Selection Sunday.
Iowa State Cyclones, Big 12 Conference
Current Record: 14-8, 6-4 in conference play.
RPI: 43 according to CBSSports.com, 40 according to RealTimeRPI.com, and 26 according to KenPom.com
Key Wins: January 11 at Oklahoma State and February 4 at Kansas in halting the Jayhawks’ 51 game home court winning streak.
Bad Losses: November 27 on neutral site vs. Gonzaga, December 1 vs. Cincinnati, January 4 at Baylor, January 14 at TCU, January 16 vs. Kansas, and January 31 vs. West Virginia.
Analysis: With the 29th most difficult Strength of Schedule, the Cyclones have had a very difficult navigating through the mostly choppy waters of the Big 12. They are 1-4 against the Top 25 in the RPI, but are 4-4 against schools ranked 26 through 100. Their schedule has mostly bottom feeder teams until February 25 when they host Baylor and pay a visit to West Virginia on Friday, March 3 prior to the Big 12 postseason tournament.
Percentage Chance of reaching the Big Dance: 45 percent. Just like the Big 10 discussed above, the Big 12 in mostly having a down year since Kansas, Baylor, and West Virginia should have their tickets punched before Valentine’s Day. My guess at this point when I typed this blog on Monday night, February 6 is that the Cyclones will more than likely be NIT or CBI bound.