- John Gasaway, ESPN Insider
Of the teams that began the season ranked in the top five of the ESPN/USA Today poll, three have more or less stayed right where they were: The Duke Blue Devils, Ohio State Buckeyes and Pittsburgh Panthers are a combined 40-1; all three are still atop the rankings nine weeks into the season. But you might have noticed that things haven't gone quite so smoothly for the Kansas State Wildcats and Michigan State Spartans.
The Wildcats have had to deal with the temporary suspensions of Jacob Pullen and Curtis Kelly, of course, but even at full strength, Frank Martin's team mustered just 44 points in a 13-point loss to the unranked Florida Gators on Dec. 18. Pullen has returned to action for a team that's 12-3 and ranked No. 17.
Nor has the early season been particularly kind to Tom Izzo's Spartans. At 10-4 and ranked No. 19 by the coaches, MSU is a long way from where it was expected to be in early January.
It seems Michigan State does this all the time. Seeing the Spartans struggle and indeed lose games has put the "early" in "early season" in each of the past few years, and you might have noticed that Izzo's team keeps reaching the Final Four anyway. Why worry this time around?
Because this team isn't scoring enough points.
John Gasaway looks at the Michigan State Spartans. The preseason top-five pick have fallen to No. 19, beset by a tough schedule, poor shooting and turnovers. Is this the year not to bank on Izzo's magic in March? Maybe -- but don't make decisions yet.