Michigan State basketball gets upgraded to "should be in" in ESPN Bracketology

Illinois v Michigan State
Illinois v Michigan State / Rey Del Rio/GettyImages
2 of 2

Work left to do

The center position is and has been the biggest question mark this season. Every single fan knew that an upgrade was needed if this team had national championship aspirations. Having non-functioning bigs mean more reliance on shooting which has a tendency to go cold for stretches, less rebounds (both offensive and defensive can be the difference in close games), and poor floor spacing for guys like Malik Hall, Tyson Walker, and AJ Hoggard driving to the basket.

Luckily, the Spartans next three opponents -- Penn State, Michigan, and Iowa -- are in the bottom half of the Big Ten in rebounding. Perhaps this is a good time to give Xavier Booker or Coen Carr some experience and opportunities to grab boards (I don't think anyone has had that opinion before, real deep-level thinking by me).

But as Tom Izzo has always said, you win with guard play in March and Jaden Akins, Walker, and Hoggard are clicking at the right time. We have a clue on what we are going to get from Akins and Walker on a night-in, night-out basis but it's been a guessing game (for four years) on what kind of Hoggard we will get on any given night. He can be All-Big Ten when his mind is right and DePaul bench player when he's off. If taking random nights off during the regular season means he's going to put up double digit points and being the team's assist leader in tournament games, then I guess it's something we just live with.

A 5-2 record should be the floor for the remainder of the regular season with 6-1 being the ceiling with absolutely no shot to beat Purdue on the road. The Spartans are only a 1.5 games back from second place in the conference despite how this season has gone. A top-four seed and a double-bye are within reach for the Big Ten Tournament.

Would a semifinal or title game appearance be enough the the Spartans get a No. 6 or 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament? These next seven games will the the test to see what Izzo's "best team in a decade" can make out of this roller-coaster season.