No. 11 Michigan State has as strong a resume as any other team in college basketball. With wins over Kansas, Louisville, Providence and Maryland, the Spartans have just been just terrific throughout the course of the season.
So when I make this next statement, I don’t do so lightly.
On the road, against rival Michigan, Tom Izzo and company put together their best performance of the season.
The Spartans defeated the Wolverines 89-73 behind an absolutely lights-out shooting performance that saw them shoot 64 percent from the field and make 14 of 22 from behind the 3-point line. Basically, they just shredded the Wolverine defense and got whatever they wanted throughout the course of the game, largely on the back of their two best players: Denzel Valentine and Bryn Forbes. Valentine put up a near-triple double of 21 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, leading the offense at the point guard spot for a majority of the day and picking out the skipped rotations in the Michigan defense.
The biggest beneficiary of Valentine’s vision was Forbes, who knocked down eight 3s on his way to 29 points. The two made that connection on four of those 3s, as Michigan’s defense just continually failed to be in position to close out on shooters. This example gave the Spartans a 17-point first-half lead that Michigan never recovered from.
Coming into this game, the two teams had been tied at 7-4 in the Big Ten. But unsurprisingly, this game showed that not all records in the league with a clear top and a clear bottom are equal. Particularly, Michigan’s resume is pretty lacking at the moment despite a 17-7 record.
They have two top-30 wins, but no others in the top-50 and only two others in the top-100 of KenPom. Now, they’re going to have a ton of opportunities down the stretch to get the necessary wins. Plus, all of their losses have come against top-25 teams in KenPom. However, they’re going to need to take advantage of those opportunities.
As for the Spartans, this one helps to continue to build a resume that is tracking toward a potential top-two seed in the NCAA Tournament. This one was more about building momentum toward the end of the year though, which Izzo teams always seem to do. Since its little three game stumble right after Valentine returned from injury, Michigan State has ripped off four nice wins in a row here and looks to have regained the steam it had early in the year. If this continues, the Spartans are going to be a tough out in the Big Ten the rest of the way.