In the past two seasons, both Michigan and Michigan State have now been the nation’s top team — relatively speaking at least. The Spartans, who got enough votes when the polls came out yesterday to pass former-No. 1 Kentucky in both the AP and Coaches poll, are the most recent.
Though Michigan State is 4-0, it wasn’t an easy ride to number one. After battling and beating then-No.1 Kentucky in front a raucous crowd in Chicago, the Spartans went on to play Columbia in what was meant to be a gimme non-conference game.
But it wasn’t. The Lions fought and fought and fought, and Michigan State only pulled away at the end for a 62-53 victory. Then last night, in what should’ve been a blowout, the Spartans defeated Portland by 15 points in a contest that was much closer than the score made it out to appear by the end of the game.
Overall, Michigan State is certainly worthy of its top ranking. The Spartans have a very strong returning core of players and a coach who has done it all before in Tom Izzo. However, they seem to be a little shaky early on. Maybe it’s just early season jitters — maybe they need to work out the bugs (even though it’s a lot of the old team).
If there’s one thing we do know, though, it’s that Izzo won’t let a promising team like this go to waste. He knows the importance of keeping his players on an even keel, despite their high ranking.
"I think it's a privilege," Izzo told the Associated Press about the Spartans’ No.1 ranking. "If we handle it well, we'll see how long we can hang on. And if we don't, we'll learn something from that. We don't get a banner or a ring for this, but it's good for our program.”
That’s a reasonable response if I’ve ever heard one. It won’t and shouldn’t be the pinnacle for the Spartans season. But at the same time, it's been 12 years since it last happened. That’s nothing to scoff at, either.