At one point, Michigan State Basketball was 5-3 and looked in trouble. Since then, the Spartans have looked every bit of a national title contender.
It is known that Michigan State Basketball lost on neutral courts to Kentucky and Virginia Tech. The Spartans have suffered some major setbacks with the devastating season-ending injury to starter Joshua Langford before the start of the season and the denial of immediate eligibility of star transfer Joey Hauser. Michigan State has suffered heartache off the court with the passing of Cassius Winston’s brother Zachary Winston.
However, overcoming adversity when it seems like you always have a new obstacle or a difficult path to cross is more than a sign of strength. It is more than showing everyone you have heart, it is a sign of greatness and some people or in this instance, some teams will never experience that feeling of pure satisfaction knowing that you had to climb mountains and swim across oceans to earn the gratification of reaching your full potential. Guess what? Michigan State losing to Duke was the awakening of a sleeping giant and now the Big Ten and the rest of college basketball are taking notice.
Similar to a Phoenix rising from the ashes, Michigan State’s season seemed to be in the ashes after a very disappointing loss to the Blue Devils on their home court. The first half of that game for the Spartans was not good by any stretch of the imagination. At one point, Michigan State was down by 16 points at halftime. The Spartans were turning the ball over at an alarming rate and missing free throws, especially one and one’s. Duke’s aggressive man to man denial defense caused havoc to Michigan State’s offense in the first half as they were held to only 29 points. At the 9:47 mark in the 2nd half, the Spartans were down 21 and Michigan State ended up losing 87-75. Then the sleeping giant woke up, and the Spartans have not looked back.
In early December, it was easy to say Louisville was on its way to being anointed the king of college basketball after defeating at the time No. 4 Michigan but the Cardinals after being ranked No.1 would end up losing to Texas Tech by 13 in the Jimmy V Classic. Then the Kansas Jayhawks emerged as the new No. 1 but lost to Villanova on the road by one and were dethroned of their crown.
Near the end of December, one-loss teams like Gonzaga and Ohio State were ranked #1 and #2 respectfully. The Buckeyes would shortly thereafter entering the new year lose four of their last six games and is not even at this time a contender to win the Big Ten. Gonzaga who had lost to Michigan by 18 points earlier in the season have won their last nine games but have struggled mightily as against the Portland Pilots who had a 42-35 lead into halftime, the Zags eventually needed a big 2nd half comeback against a barely above .500 team to win. Against Pepperdine who has a losing record and they were tied with them at halftime and Gonzaga barely escaped with a 5-point victory. In other words, no single team has looked like a clear favorite to win the national championship.
As stated earlier, Michigan State has had their struggles earlier this season. Based on the fact that they have three losses on the season, an argument can not be made right now that they are clearly better than teams they lost to like Duke or teams like Gonzaga who only have one loss on the season. However, national championships are not won in November or December.
Even when the outlook looks bleak like when Virginia was the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 seed in the NCAA tournament the season prior but rebounded to win the national title the following season, it is not how you start but how you finish. Rather it be from the season before or from how a team performed in non-conference play, how you perform in the NCAA tournament is what counts in the end.