It wasn’t pretty. It was actually anything but and the Michigan State Spartans are still unbeaten and the new No. 1 team in the nation after taking down the No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats and sneaking by a gritty Columbia Lions team at home. After the win over Kentucky in their second game of the season, the Spartans were expected to be an easy choice for the top team in the nation, but a narrow victory over Columbia changed that.
The result was clear: the Spartans needed to avoid letdowns after big wins. Michigan State looked more than ready for the Wildcats in the first game of the season, but then took a step back against Columbia, taking the Lions more lightly than it should have.
Coming into the game, the Spartans were expected to run Columbia out of the gym, but it took a late-game comeback to put Michigan State on top for good.
Many were talking about how the Spartans didn’t deserve No. 1 after the narrow victory, but that couldn’t have been any more ridiculous of a statement.
No team in the nation has the kind of experience the Spartans have. While experience may be the one thing that people give Michigan State credit for, it also has a couple possible first round picks on its roster. Tom Izzo has coached this team to perfection and for the first time since 2000-01 that the Spartans have been atop the AP poll.
While rankings don’t mean much, this group of Spartans deserve every top vote they received. Adreian Payne is one of the best big men in the nation, averaging 17 points and eight rebounds, Keith Appling is one of the top point guards in the nation, averaging 12 points and six assists, and Gary Harris is one of the best overall players in the nation as a sophomore, averaging 17 points and five rebounds.
Every team falters against a lesser opponent every once in a while, the Spartans just got their faltering out early in the year.