“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” – Benjamin Franklin
Although, in this day and age, Tom Izzo, March Madness success, and the Michigan State Spartans are awfully close.
So, as another NCAA Tournament arrives, Michigan State is once again a high seed, though many would argue that the Spartans deserved a #1 seed.
With a field chock full of parity, Michigan State is still amongst the favorites listed by Vegas and the majority of basketball prognosticators.
Here are seven key reasons that back the argument for Michigan State to cut down the nets in the 2016 NCAA Tournament.
7 Reasons Michigan State Will Win the National Championship
“Uncle Mo” (Momentum)
Never doubt the power of momentum and Michigan State has won nine straight games heading into Friday’s opening round matchup with Middle Tennessee. In fact, Sparty’s last loss was February 9th, an 82-81 overtime road defeat at the hands of Purdue. Recent competition hasn’t always been stiff, but the stretch does include a Big Ten conference championship and wins over both Maryland and Purdue.
Sparty is Battle Tested
Michigan State is battle tested, facing a Big Ten conference schedule that included games against teams like Maryland, Purdue, Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin. Michigan State also had non-conference games against Kansas, Providence, Louisville and Florida. It should also be noted that a number of these games were without key members of the roster. This sort of experience is key in March.
While March Madness tournaments of recent years featured one-and-done freshmen, this season’s theme has been veteran leadership. Michigan State has a number of veterans on its roster, including seniors Denzel Valentine (19.4 ppg), Bryn Forbes (14.4 ppg), Matt Costello (10.4 ppg) and Colby Wollenman. Gavin Schilling and Alvin Ellis III are juniors, while Eron Harris (9.3 ppg) is a junior transfer. These players have been in this situation before.
The Respect Card
Most coaches and players will tell the media that they’re taking the tournament game by game and day by day – and while that may be somewhat true, one can’t ignore the respect card, especially when it deals a team an ugly hand. Michigan State rolled through its Big Ten conference tournament and hung up 29 wins during the season, only to be ignored as one of the top seeds in the big dance. If you think that hasn’t been mentioned in the locker room, then you’re just crazy.
Balance and Depth (Stats, Stats and More Stats)
Michigan State is a very balanced, deep and talented team, but don’t just take my word for it – let’s let the statistics do the talking instead. In fact, since running the numbers over the last five to ten years of NCAA tournaments, there isn’t a team that has appeared to be more balanced and highly-rated. In particular, Michigan State is ranked as such (Division-I NCAA ranks below):
- Scoring Offense: 21st
- Scoring Defense: 19th
- Scoring Margin: 2nd
- Field Goal Percentage: 13th
- Field Goal Percentage Defense: 2nd
- Rebound Margin: 1st
- Assist Turnover Ratio: 2nd
- Three-Pointers Per Game: 26th
Basketball mastermind Ken Pomeroy also has Michigan State ranked 2nd overall, 2nd in Adjusted Offense and 19th in Adjusted Defense.
Denzel Valentine is a legit Player of the Year candidate and for many, in a battle with Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield for the award. In the 2015-16 USBWA Men’s Honors Ballot, Valentine was listed as one of eleven finalists for the Oscar Robertson Trophy (National Player of the Year). I personally voted him second behind Buddy Hield and it’s likely he’ll either finish in that slot, or at the top. The following six performances stand out by Valentine this season:
- November 17 vs Kansas: 29 points, 12 assists, 12 rebounds (triple-double)
- November 26 vs Boston College: 29 points, 10 assists, 11 rebounds (triple-double, sub-par opponent)
- December 2 vs. Louisville: 25 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds
- January 23 vs. Maryland: 19 points, 8 assists, 14 rebounds
- February 9 at Purdue: 27 points, 10 assists, 8 rebounds
- February 14 vs. Indiana: 30 points, 13 assists, 5 rebounds
and last but certainly not least…
Coach Izzo’s reputation speaks for itself, especially in March. He gets his players ready to play and is always able to get his team to improve as the season progresses. But again, the statistics tell the real story and here are a few highlights of Izzo’s career (to date):
- Head Coaching Record: 521–204 (.719)
- 1 National Championship (2000)
- 7 Final Four Appearances (Last one in 2015)
- 7 Big Ten Regular Season Championships (Last one in 2012)
- 5 Big Ten Tournament Championships (Last one this season)
Plain and simple, don’t sleep on Michigan State in this tournament.
There are plenty of reasons to believe that Sparty will cut down the nets in 2016.
This was just seven, but there could be fifty more.