But with close losses – including three in overtime – that is where the Spartans sit heading into their second Big Ten game against Indiana on Monday night.
Coach Tom Izzo said Saturday that is it too early to call it a must-win game for the Spartans to build a case for the NCAA Tournament, but it carries plenty of weight.
“It’s big because it’s a home game against a team that’s done well and it would be a good win,” Izzo said. “I’ve started out so many different ways in my career and still made it to the promised land one way or another. It definitely gets bigger, so there’s more pressure on.
”It will be interesting to see how we handle that because we are going to have to handle that. That’s the expectations and that’s what you have at this place and deservedly so.”
While Izzo was not ready to peg the game against the 11-3 Hoosiers as a must win, senior forward Branden Dawson said it definitely is.
“We have to win and we just have to,” Dawson said. “We’re 9-5 right now and we’ve been so close in the last games we’ve lost, going to overtime, so I’d say the game Monday is a must-win.”
Izzo, rarely one to be the eternal optimist, said his perspective on his team is that the glass is half full in the sense that the Spartans have been close in their losses. But those losses need to turn to wins at some point, which is why junior center Matt Costello said it is a matter of MSU needing to play better.
”Just taking it one game at a time, that’s the main thing we have to do and start moving forward from here,” Costello said. “We’ve got 17 games left in the Big Ten season. It’s a lot season and we can still make a great impact. We are a good enough team to do some crazy things and people would be surprised when we get it together.”