Busting Brackets

Bracketology 2024: Arkansas, Michigan State, and St. John's in need of avoiding a bad loss

Abilene Christian v Arkansas
Abilene Christian v Arkansas / Wesley Hitt/GettyImages
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Michigan State Spartans (7-5) vs. Indiana State Sycamores (11-1), Sat, Dec 29, 2:00 PM ET, FS1

From preseason Final Four buzz to five losses before January is quite the fall for a lot of teams, but for Tom Izzo and Michigan State (7-5) that’s where they find themselves. Saturday afternoon’s contest with a team that is off to a very strong start in the Indiana State Sycamores (11-1) has turned into what amounts to a must-win for the Spartans before league play begins in earnest.

Their NET ranking sits at 35th on the day after Christmas, but that is largely based on the six quad 1 games that the Spartans have played thus far, which has led to a strength of schedule of 23. The issue for Michigan State is that they have as many quad 3 wins, one, as they do in the first quadrant, a win over Baylor. Otherwise, they have five losses in the quadrant and four of their wins are against teams ranked lower than 250 in the NET. Their underlying predictive metrics look strong, averaging 21.5, but as one might expect their results numbers have struggled with an average rank of 77.

They better not sleep on a Sycamore team that is 23rd in the NET. Despite the strength of schedule of 267, they are undefeated in quad 3 with wins over Toledo, Bradley, and Southern Illinois that could improve to quad 2 wins. The winner of this game will keep their at-large hopes alive, but for Michigan State, a loss would make their road to a bid a long and windy one.