Last night showed pretty evidently what most of us who follow college basketball already suspected; Michigan State is not the best team in the country.
Now that doesn’t mean that the Spartans aren’t good. It doesn’t even mean that they won’t get to a Final Four and can’t win a National Championship. It simply means they are not the clear-cut top team in the nation. Jekyll and Hyde North Carolina ambushed them last night from the opening tip and never relented; outrebounding Sparty and winning the turnover and points off turnovers statistics – something that rarely happens to Tom Izzo’s squad. The Carolina win was good for us as it capped off a second straight 2-0 night in college hoops.
As predicted, the Big Ten reasserted themselves last night to pull even and finish the Challenge at an even 6-6. Only two home teams lost; the aforementioned Michigan State and Virginia who coul only muster a meager 38 points against Wisconsin. Both these leagues are really good and really deep, but I’ll give the slight edge to the Big Ten because they had to send out all 12 teams top to bottom where as the ACC got to shuffle a few of their lowest teams off the slate. Both leagues have three legit Final Four contenders and another half dozen teams that will be in the mix for a bid.
Tonight doesn’t offer quite as many opportunities as the last two nights, but there is a game on my radar that I like. So let’s dig in to today’s matchup.
Mississippi Rebels at Kansas State Wildcats -2
The SEC-Big 12 Challenge doesn’t have the same zip as the ACC-Big Ten version, but it will at least satiate college hoops fans by providing a few decent games over the next few days (most notably the Kentucky vs. Baylor tilt tomorrow night). West Virginia heads to Mizzou in a nice early test for each team to gauge if they are going to be fringe contenders or bottom-feeders, but the game I’m honing in on is Ole Miss and their trip out to the Little Apple and Kansas State.
Ole Miss enters unbeaten at 6-0 and with enigmatic star Marshall Henderson back from suspension. However, their best win this season was a three-point win against Penn State, who will be fortunate to finish out of the bottom quarter of the Big Ten. I think they are the more talented team, but it will be good to see them setep out on the road and play a reasonable opponent.
But is K-State a reasonable opponent?? Kansas State enters at a jarringly bad 4-3, but at least they’ve faced some competition this season. Their losses have been mostly unimpressive. The loss to Georgetown was ugly, 90-63, but at least it came against a good team. The competitive loss to Charlotte looks a little better with the 49’ers off to such a hot start. The season-opening loss to Northern Colorado is a tough one to stomach.
Their wins have not been a mixed bag. They have all been over low majors. They have two wins over Long Beach State and a win over Oral Roberts and Central Arkansas. Not too impressive.
Yes, they are at home tonight, but they’ve given NO indication they can contend with legitimate opponents at this point in the season. I’ll take the tourney experience and talent-level of Ole Miss, even on the road.