On paper, it looked like tonight was going to be one of the best nights of the college hoops season.
Louisville-Michigan and Duke-Michigan State headlining a slate with a handful of other high-major showdowns? Yes, please.
The only problem?
None of the games that were worth watching ended up being, you know, worth watching.
Here are the three things you need to know from Tuesday’s college hoops action.
1. IT’S TIME TO START PAYING ATTENTION TO A COUPLE OF UNDEFEATED TEAMS IN INDIANA
Indiana made a statement on Tuesday night.
The Hoosiers entered the ACC/Big Ten Challenge with an undefeated record, but there wasn’t much substance to their seven wins. The only team ranked in the top 175 on KenPom was No. 83 Louisiana Tech, and they had yet to leave the friendly confines of Assembly Hall.
But on Tuesday, No. 17 Florida State came to town and the Hoosiers ran them off the floor. Indiana used a 13-2 run in the final four minutes to blow open what had become a close game and take home an 80-64 win. The Seminoles had entered this game on a high note. They were coming off of wins over Tennessee and Purdue. They had won the Emerald Coast Classic. They were ranked. They were rolling, and then they ran into Archie Miller’s buzzsaw.
I’m not quite sure what to make of this yet. Indiana is ranked No. 20 on KenPom, but their marquee win came against a team that was in a prime letdown spot, returning from a November tournament that they had won.
Time will tell, but at this point we need to start paying more attention to the Hoosiers.
The same can be said for Butler, although I do think that we already knew the Bulldogs were pretty good. Before they went into Oxford and picked off Ole Miss, Butler had beaten Minnesota, Missouri and Stanford, the latter of which came in the Hall Of Fame Classic in Kansas City. This probably wasn’t even the most impressive win of their season.
But it did get them to 8-0.
2. THE ACC OWNS THE STATE OF MICHIGAN
I mentioned it earlier, but the standout games in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, the games that we all were just so excited to watch, ended up being busts.
Louisville and Michigan never got going. They only cracked 100 points combined because Michigan fouled, down 13, with 19 seconds left. Michigan shot just 25.9 percent from the field. Louisville checked in at a crisp 36.7 percent. It was a rockfight, but one that Louisville, who had not been tested yet this season, needed to win. And they did so fairly easily.
Duke did the same thing to Michigan State, and while I think we all could have seen Louisville’s win coming, I’m not sure anyone predicted that the Blue Devils would go into East Lansing and go full hammertime. They were up by 16 points in the first half, but 20 in the second half and, outside of a 9-1 spurt to open the second half, were never actually tested.
3. MICHIGAN STATE IS IN FREE FALL
The Spartans were the consensus preseason No. 1 team in the country this season, but after getting drubbed by Duke in East Lansing, they are now sitting at 5-3 on the season.
Those three losses?
A Duke team that lost at home to Stephen F. Austin. A Kentucky team that lost at home to Evansville. And a Virginia Tech team that was picked 14th in the ACC preseason poll. There are 15 teams in the ACC.
This is not the first time that we’ve talked about the issues that are currently plaguing the Spartans. I wrote a column about it just last week, and many of the things that were evident then are still evident now. This will, by no means, be a quick fix for Tom Izzo.
What’s wild about this, however, is that the biggest reason for the issues that Spartans are facing is that they have been completely incapable of replacing senior Matt McQuaid and Kenny Goins. Those two were so important, so valuable and so underrated, even if they were hardly the biggest names on that team. McQuaid developed into a lockdown defender, a knockdown shooter and a guy that could play a little bit on the ball and allow Izzo to run Winston at the two. And Goins? We talked all about his value here.
But the single most important point to make is that those two knew their roles, and they excelled in their roles as seniors.
The guys in those roles now are freshmen and sophomores that don’t know what they’re supposed to do or how they’re supposed to do it. They don’t excel, and it’s understandable. They’re freshmen and sophomores, and if Josh Langford’s foot was healthy and Joey Hauser had actually received a waiver like seemingly every other transfer in America, they would have another year to marinate before even being asked to excel in such a large role.
So I get it.
But it doesn’t change the fact that Michigan State is suddenly in a very bad spot.
And, if we’re being frank, probably should drop out of the top 25 on Monday morning.