Michigan State is a slam dunk to reach the Final Four

Profile Picture: Dan Halverson

March 6th, 2020

Heading into the 2019-20 college basketball season, bookmakers and poll voters settled on one team to win it all: Michigan State. The Spartans entered this year No. 1 in the country, but they quickly plummeted from that spot to find themselves unranked and mid-pack of their own conference.

But now, as postseason play is upon us, Michigan State belongs back on the radar. At +400 odds to reach the Final Four, Michigan State offers the most value outside the presumed tournament favorites. Let’s look at three reasons why the Spartans are the best value pick in this market.

Odds to reach the Final Four

Team2020 Final Four Odds
Kansas Jayhawks
Baylor Bears
Gonzaga Bulldogs
Dayton Flyers
Duke Blue Devils
Louisville Cardinals
Maryland Terrapins
Kentucky Wildcats
Florida State Seminoles
San Diego State Aztecs
Michigan State Spartans

1. Tom Izzo

The Hall of Fame coach has an illustrious postseason career. Despite "only" winning one national championship during his time in Lansing, he has been highly successful in giving his teams an opportunity to compete for more. Izzo has a 52-21 records in the NCAA tournament and eight Final Four appearances. Izzo has made the Final Four in one third of his seasons at the helm, and now sits at 4:1 odds to accomplish a feat he was favored to do a few months ago.

2. Michigan State is getting better at the right time

Despite a relatively disastrous start to the season, Michigan State is now playing their best ball of the year. They have improved their efficiency numbers, and the results are playing out in the win-loss column.

Prior to the season, Michigan State lost star player Joshua Langford. Then starting point guard Cassius Winston lost his brother in a tragic accident. They’ve turned things around since those incidents, winning five of their last six conference games, including four against ranked teams. How often in college basketball have we seen a team improve late in the year and make a run that nobody thought they were capable of during early-season struggles? Michigan State has climbed all the way to seventh in KenPom’s efficiency rankings, which is good enough for best in the very difficult Big Ten.

3. Luck favors the Spartans

The final reason Michigan State may offer good value is simple luck. Luck of the draw, that is. While San Diego State, Gonzaga, and Dayton have had incredible seasons as mid-major teams, part of their good fortune is a result of struggles elsewhere. Their ascension into the top-tier of bracketology has provided opportunities for blue bloods like Michigan State to fill in the spots normally taken by over-achieving mid-major teams.

As a nine-loss team with otherwise impressive credentials, Michigan State is likely to find itself in a section of the bracket that avoids more established and reliable top-seeds. If the Spartans get the opportunity to face Dayton or San Diego State for a spot in the Final Four, they may be the favorite. I won’t be surprised in the slightest if the selection committee gives Michigan State this opportunity.