Michigan State(21-8, 8-6 Big Ten)
RPI: 20 (kenpom.com)
Strength of Schedule: 14 (overall), 61 (non-conference)
Games last week: W 64-55 vs. #2 Wisconsin, W 66-58 vs. Indiana
Unlike last week’s choice, this one was a tough one to pick. You could also go with Georgetown, who took over the top spot in the Big East thanks to their win over Pittsburgh on Saturday. You could go with a hot Maryland team, winners of five straight including their win over North Carolina on Sunday. You could also think about MAAC champion Marist, as well as Niagara, two teams riding eight game win streaks into the MAAC Tournament next week. Or you could take Wisconsin and wonder how much the injuries suffered by Brian Butch and Michael Flowers will impact their chances of advancing deep into the NCAA Tournament. But I went with the young Spartans, who did a whole lot to not only make sure they were going to the tournament, but also helped themselves out in terms of seeding with their two road wins.
In both games junior guard Drew Neitzel was something else, especially the win over the Badgers on Tuesday night. Neitzel, who happens to be ambidextrous in case you didn’t know, went for 28 on 10-for-17 shooting from the field, including 6-for-11 from behind the arc. Although youngsters such as Travis Walton and Raymar Morgan have improved their play of late, the Spartans will go only as far as Neitzel can lead them. And if this past week is any indication of what could be in March, teams would be advised to stay away from Tom Izzo’s team.
Honorable Mention: Georgetown (The balanced Hoyas have won eleven in a row and control their own destiny in the Big East); Maryland (a couple of weeks ago the Terps were 3-6 in the ACC, but five straight wins has them in good spirits heading to Duke); Marist (the Red Foxes clinched their first ever outright MAAC regular season title with an overtime win over Siena on Saturday; eight straight wins heading into the MAAC Tournament); Vermont (the Catamounts have won eleven in a row since their shocking home loss to Maine); Davidson (given the amount of respect given to Appalachian State of late, you have to point out that it’s the Wildcats (winners of ten in a row) that have the best record in the Southern Conference at 17-1)
Last Week: Louisville