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Michigan State basketball: Is it time to hit the panic button?

A 9-7 start isn’t ideal.

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Michigan State basketball
© Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

After an uncharacteristic 9-7 start and 1-4 record in Big Ten play, is it time to hit the panic button on Michigan State basketball?

Michigan State basketball suffered its seventh loss of the season and fourth in Big Ten play Thursday night after losing to No. 10 Illinois 71-68. The Spartans didn’t play terribly in this game, but seven losses are still seven losses. With this team’s expectations all but destroyed, is it time to hit the panic button?

This is a difficult question to answer and it depends on how you look at the season. Let’s dive into it.

Big Ten regular season championship

If you view this season from the perspective of wanting to win a Big Ten title then the Spartans might be past hitting the panic button. After falling to 1-4 in conference play, it might be impossible to win the Big Ten. So if you’re someone who cares a lot about winning this championship, like I am, then it’s time to smash the panic button.

The Spartans do have an easier schedule on the horizon, so that does help. But a 1-4 start is likely too big of a hole to crawl out of. I think the Big Ten champion this year will finish with at worst a 15-5 record. So do you think this Michigan State team can finish the season 14-1? I wouldn’t even bet on the best Michigan State basketball teams of all time to do that.

NCAA Tournament

  • Earning a high seed

What about when you look at the NCAA Tournament? There are two different ways we can look at this tournament and how much fans should be panicking. First is the chance the Spartans get a good seed and a favorable draw in the tournament. We should be smashing the panic button in this scenario, similarly to the idea of winning the Big Ten.

Earning a top-four seed seems impossible, and even a five or six seed seems unlikely. Once you get past those seeds then you’re having to play one of the best teams in the country in the second round, so not ideal. So if you were hoping for a good seed in the NCAA Tournament, you should definitely be panicking.

  • Making the NCAA Tournament

But what about just making the NCAA Tournament? The Spartans have the second-longest active streak at 25 appearances. Should we be panicking about this steak coming to an end?

I think we should be lightly tapping the panic button in this scenario. If the season ended today I believe MSU’s resume would be strong enough to make it into the tournament field, but it would be very close.

The reason my panic level isn’t that high with this yet is that the schedule gets a little easier. The next five games are as follows:

  • Rutgers
  • Minnesota
  • at Maryland
  • at Wisconsin
  • Michigan

The Spartans will be favored to win in four of these games, with Wisconsin being the outlier. I expect MSU to go 4-1 in this stretch, and if it accomplishes that, it will once again be comfortably in the NCAA Tournament. Anything less than that and I might start hitting the panic button a little more.

We will learn fast what this team is made of. Tom Izzo and Michigan State take on Rutgers at home this Sunday at noon. This game is the definition of a must-win. If the Spartans were to lose, they would officially be outside of the NCAA Tournament field in my opinion.

Lead writer for Spartan Shadows since April 2023, writing over 450 articles. Michigan State basketball, football and recruiting expert. Class of 2019 graduate from Michigan State University specializing in Sports Management. Daily MSU runs a popular X page (@daily_msu) covering all things MSU Sports.

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