Michigan State Résumé: Metrics, Bubble Chances, & More

Michigan State Bubble
(Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

St. John’s earned a First Four bid in the 2019 NCAA Tournament despite a sub-.500 conference record and NET ranking of 73rd. In the first year of the NET, the committee’s new primary evaluation tool after ditching RPI, the Red Storm were the lowest-ranked NET team to earn an at-large bid. They were 10 spots worse in the NET than the next worst team, their First Four opponent Arizona State (63).

Michigan State is currently 75th. 

We don’t know if that means anything–for several reasons, among them a one-year NET sample size and lack of transparency from the committee–but it’s worth noting as Michigan State makes a late push to extend their tourney appearance streak to 23 years.

It’s also worth noting Michigan State isn’t on the bubble. For the eighth consecutive week, the Spartans weren’t included in Bracketology, nor were they considered for inclusion in Bracketology. On Tuesday night, one day after they beat Illinois for another Quadrant 1 win, a friend asked me about their bubble chances in relation to Minnesota, who plummeted from a 5-seed in the Jan. 7 edition of Bracketology to a First Four team in the Feb. 25 edition. 

My initial response: I doubt they’re on the bubble but would let him know on Thursday after completing my projections. I forgot to let him know until several hours after publishing. 

I forgot because Michigan State never crossed my mind in building the 68-team field.

Approximately 20 teams were in the unofficial bubble section of my spreadsheet. Several earned 10- and 11-seeds, including Indiana, Colorado State, and Wichita State, while four earned First Four bids. The other dozen-ish teams were left out, among them VCU, Georgia Tech, Duke, and Utah State. 

Michigan State didn’t earn consideration for consideration. 

In addition to their problematic NET ranking–which is a season-high after weeks of sub-90 rankings–they’re 62nd in KenPom, 83rd in KenPom AdjO, 78th in KenPom NC SOS, and 68th in BPI. They’re just 3-6 in road games, have a 14-point Quadrant 2 loss (Northwestern), and nearly lost a Quadrant 4 game (Detroit) in December. 

Other numbers are more typical of a true bubble team, including 46th in SOR, 44th in KenPom AdjD, 37th in Sagarin, 30th in total Quadrant 1 and Quadrant 2 wins, and zero Quadrant 3 and Quadrant 4 losses.

Two pieces of good news for Michigan State. One: They have a few strong numbers, including 10th in SOS, 15th in Sagarin SOS, and 14th in Quadrant 1 wins (four). And two: They have at least three remaining Quadrant 1 games, including Thursday night against Ohio State. Amazingly, despite an 8-7 start (2-7 in the Big Ten), Michigan State controls its own at-large destiny. 

Right now, the Spartans aren’t on the NCAA Tournament bubble, nor are they in consideration for the bubble. That, however, will change with more performances like Tuesday’s win over Illinois.

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Andrew Doughty is a writer for BetMGM and host of High Motor by BetMGM, an NFL and college football podcast available on Apple Podcasts and everywhere else. He has written for Sports Illustrated, HERO Sports, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation. Follow him on Twitter: @DoughtyBetMGM