COLUMN: Why the Spartans’ road struggles are such a big deal

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Nia Clouden/MSU Athletic Communications

Sam Britten, Women's Basketball Beat

Michigan State has struggled on the road this year, going 3-6 overall and 1-6 in road Big Ten games. After a 17 point loss in Madison, the road game problems have been made quite clear to Spartan fans. Michigan State still has a chance to host an NCAA tournament game, but the recent loss to Wisconsin hurts their chances. A perfect 13-0 record is big, but they won’t get a team very far if their record outside of their home stadium is under .500.

In the Big Ten Tournament

Before the loss to Wisconsin, Michigan State sat at fourth in the conference. After the loss, Michigan State sits at sixth in the conference. The top four teams in the Big Ten are automatically placed in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament, with the next four being placed in the second round. A team that had issues with injuries last year could use that extra day of rest in the tournament.

In the NCAA Tournament

Michigan State does have a chance to host up to two NCAA tournament games if they were to land a four seed or higher. There is an exception to this rule as Michigan State was projected as a six seed and was set to play in the same opening city as South Carolina in ESPN’s latest Bracketology (last updated Feb. 11). South Carolina has a potential building conflict as Colonial Life Arena is set to host the first two rounds of the men’s NCAA tournament, which would be happening at the same time as the women’s tournament. With this building conflict, the next highest seed would be the host. Michigan State will likely drop in the tournament rankings, meaning this possibility might not last for long, but it’s still doable.

Since this outcome is slipping away from Michigan State by the minute, the team will likely have to win on the road, something they haven’t been able to prove they can do. The Spartans just haven’t been able to get anything done on the road, averaging 70.3 points per game on the road while they average 84 points at the Breslin Center. The road is Michigan State’s kryptonite, and until they prove they can win on the road, the team will struggle to get things done in March.

For the future

No post-season basketball has been played yet and the Spartans could very well shock some teams, this outcome isn’t likely, but nothing is impossible. With the number of upsets that have happened this year, it would be fitting to see some big teams fall in the tournament. Regardless of what “could” or “might” happen, Michigan State had a turnaround year considering the fact that they lost in the third round of the WNIT to South Dakota. The team will only be losing lone senior Jenna Allen. She might be an emotional leader and a big team player, but several young players have grown and made big impacts on the season. Adding five four-star recruits to next year’s squad can only bring improvement to this team and its future as a program.

Michigan State needs to win out and cannot afford a loss in the regular season if they want to make a case for a quality team come tournament time. The Spartans will look to rebound from the loss in Madison when they play at Nebraska on Sunday.