Despite losing to Duke, 88-81 in an early season marquee college basketball game oddsmakers still believe that the Spartans are the team that will walk away with the NCAA Championship in April. They are a 9-2 favorite while the Blue Devils are next at 8-1.
The AP Top 25 Rankings disagree with the sports books. They have had Duke the No. 1 team in the country since the preseason poll was released three weeks ago. If anything voters have made Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s squad stronger in the third week of the season.
They began the season with 33 of the 65 first-place votes but have grabbed more of those as the season began. The second week they garnered another vote and by the third week they had 54 of them. Arizona is the only other team to get first-place votes with 11. They are tabbed at 8-1 to win the championship.
Early Loss Upsetting
When MSU and Duke faced off in Chicago on Nov. 14 it was billed as a potential semifinal or final match up in the NCAA Tournament. The two teams were a pick ’em with those setting the line.
They played close until the Blue Devils pulled away late in the game. That didn’t make Spartans Coach Tom Izzo very happy and he lit into the team after the game to reporters.
“We got a little tired, and again, substituting was not good,” he said. “But I don’t feel good about, oh, it was a tie game with four minutes, three minutes left or something. I’m so far beyond it. And to be honest with you, I’m sick of it.”
Duke has had Izzo’s number for most of his 23 years at the East Lansing university. He is 1-11 against them in his career and did shoulder some of the blame for the loss.
“I’m sick of holding my own. OK? I ain’t into holding my own. I give them a lot of credit, they got a good team. But this ain’t about holding my own,” he said. “My team played OK. If there’s a positive.”
Movement up and down the college basketball polls is routine, much more so than college football where more depends on a team’s ranking for those final four spots to get in the college football playoffs. Basketball programs will move up and down the polls routinely and the only thing it affects is where they are seeded in the field of 68.
Since 1985 only four teams that ended the regular season No. 1 won the NCAA Championship. The last one was the 2016 Villinova Wildcats, who had a 35-5 season and captured the title.
This year the Wildcats are 18-1 to win the crown with several teams in front of them. One of those is Kentucky who is pegged at 10-1 to capture its ninth title. But they already have a loss on the season, dropping their third game of the season to No. 4 Kansas, 65-61, who is 12-1 to win it all.
While they slid to No. 8 in the polls from No. 5, chances are their title odds will stay the same.