The Michigan State Spartans men's basketball team was the pre-season's #1 ranked team in the nation, and now they are not even in the top 25 AP Poll. They are the first pre-season favorite not to be in the poll since the Kentucky Wildcats fell out in 2013-14 season. The Spartans were #16, but they have dropped 3 in a row, including to rival Michigan, and now you have to wonder if they will even make the Tournament? Baylor remained #1, and the San Diego Aztecs are #4 with an undefeated 24-0 record. The only change in the top 10 this week was Seton Hall who moved up 2 spots to #10.
We are just a few short weeks away from Selection Sunday, which falls on March 15th this year. The First-Four games will be played in Dayton the following Tuesday and Wednesday, and then the Real Tournament, as I like to call it, begins that Thursday through Sunday. That's when the real madness begins and ends. Going from 64, or 68 I suppose, teams all the way down to just the Sweet 16 in a matter of a 4-day weekend. Games are starting every 5 minutes it feels like, all the way from 9 a.m. to late at night; there's nothing but college basketball games and scores and highlights all over the news. But just like that, when we get down to 16 and weed out some of the weaker competition, the madness dies down. The games get more spread out and that initial buzz seems to wane a little bit. But at least for a few days, from Selection Sunday to opening tip off a few days later, each of the 68 teams still has a chance to be that Cinderella story of the Tournament.
Who will it be this year? The Aztecs? Despite being 24-0, if they were to make it to say, the Elite 8, I would consider that a nice Cinderella run for them. But you can never count out the top dogs like Duke, Kentucky, Gonzaga and Louisville. As the final weeks come to a close and we get into the conference championships, we will have a better idea of who is in and who will be out. Will there be more teams who fade away like the Spartans, or will we have some teams make their way to the top 25 who are on the outside looking in? The picture should be clearer in the next couple weeks. Last year I picked Virginia from the start, this year I am going to go with the Kansas Jayhawks.