Observations: Michigan State was never dead, just rounding into form

Many people in East Lansing thought the apocalypse had had hit on Jan. 20 when the Spartans lost at home to Nebraska and fell to 4-4 in Big Ten play.

Nevertheless, Tom Izzo’s team always seems to deal with high levels of adversity before they can experience high levels of success, and this year is no different.

Michigan State has now won four straight games following Saturday’s 16-point win at in-state rival Michigan and very much is again resembling the team that many thought would be the team to beat for the national title in November and December.

Bryn Forbes has gone on an absolute tear offensively and has made 14-of-20 3-point shots in his last two games while Denzel Valentine is averaging 19.8 points, 9.0 rebounds and 7.3 assists during the Spartans’ four-game winning streak.

Michigan State is now 20-4 overall and 7-4 in Big Ten play heading into Tuesday’s game against Purdue.

Ryan Anderson is playing like a first-team, All-Pac-12 player

The Boston College transfer was supposed to “bridge the gap” at power forward for Arizona after the Wildcats lost Brandon Ashley last season, but he’s done much more than that.

The 6-foot-9 Anderson completely changed his body from when he played for the Eagles and now has become a fluid force for Arizona.

Anderson is averaging 26.5 points and 13.5 rebounds over his last two games and has gotten to the foul line a combined 28 times during that span.

Armed with a renewed sense of confidence and belief, the fifth-year senior is playing like he’s the best power forward in the Pac-12.

It’s hard to argue considering the level that he’s currently producing at.

Anderson is averaging 16.2 points and 10.4 rebounds in total this season while shooting 58.7 percent from the field. He shot 48.9 percent from the field two years ago at Boston College.

The Big East is officially a top-heavy conference

This league is Villanova, Xavier, and then everybody else.

The Wildcats and Musketeers are a combined 19-3 in conference play and will play for a second time this season in a highly-anticipated game at Xavier on Feb. 24, but after that, the Big East is a hodge podge.

Providence, Georgetown, Butler, Seton Hall, Creighton and Marquette have all had moments of promise this season, but all six of those teams are going to have to sweat things out in February.

And yes, that includes the Friars.

Providence built major equity in November and December, but Ed Cooley’s team is stuck in a mini, mid-season crisis.

The Friars (18-6, 6-5) have lost back-to-back games to DePaul and Villanova and next travel to Marquette on Wednesday — a place they’ve never won.

After that, Providence returns home to play Georgetown before back-to-back road games at Xavier and Seton Hall.

There’s very little certainty in this league after the top two teams.

This just in

  • Louisville’s Damion Lee (knee) will play Monday against Duke, Rick Pitino told CBS Sports. Lee missed Saturday’s game against Boston College.
Denzel Valentine and the Spartans are ready to make a run. (USATSI)

This and That

  • Virginia has held its last three opponents to an average of 48 points per game. The Cavaliers are doing what they’ve done best under Tony Bennett: defend. Virginia is currently 19-4 overall and 8-3 in ACC play.
  • Villanova’s Darryl Reynolds has grabbed a combined 32 rebounds in his last three games and is filling in admirably for the injured Daniel Ochefu (concussion). Jay Wright’s team needs Ochefu back in the lineup to be at its best, but his absence will make Villanova better down the line because it gave Reynolds the opportunity to come into his own.
  • The worst part of Indiana’s loss at Penn State on Saturday? The Hoosiers now have back-to-back games against Iowa and Michigan State. Tom Crean’s squad will host the Hawkeyes on Thursday night in Bloomington before heading to East Lansing on Sunday.
  • Kansas State has been better than its Big 12 record all season and the Wildcats finally got rewarded with Saturday night’s upset win over Oklahoma. Bruce Weber’s squad is just 3-7 in league play, but will reach the NCAA Tournament if it can get to eight league wins. Kansas State next hosts Baylor on Wednesday.
  • Seton Hall’s Angel Delgado is playing like a man possessed. The sophomore big man is averaging 16.5 points and 13.8 rebounds over his last four games while shooting a blistering 70.0 percent from the field. This guy is quietly becoming one of the best post players in the country.
  • South Carolina freshman P.J. Dozier played a solid all-around game in the Gamecocks’ win at Texas A&M on Saturday and finished with a very productive nine points, four rebounds, and four assists. Dozier’s progression as a capable role player is another example of why elite first-year players, that are ranked highly high out of high school, need veterans around them when they begin their careers in college basketball. South Carolina boasts a combined five juniors and seniors in its rotation.
  • Unless George Washington has a total meltdown, it’s going to be very difficult to keep the Colonials out of the NCAA Tournament. Mike Lonergan’s team picked up a huge victory at VCU on Saturday to go with early season home victories over both Virginia and Seton Hall. That’s a resume folks. George Washington is currently 18-5 and 7-3 in Atlantic 10 play.
  • Michigan had two games last week at home against Indiana and Michigan State. The Wolverines lost both by a combined 29 points. That is what you call punting away opportunities.
  • The basketball side of the postseason bans for both Louisville and SMU: two teams that wouldn’t have played in the NCAA Tournament now will. This is going to be one interesting bubble watch over the next five weeks.
  • Congratulations to Temple’s Fran Dunphy, who became the Big 5’s all-time winningest coach after Saturday’s win over Central Florida. There’s been one constant over the last 25 years in Philadelphia college basketball and it’s this guy. Bravo.


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