The preseason AP college basketball poll was released on Monday.
With a quick scan over the list, it would appear that all the familiar blue-blood faces made the cut (No. 3 Kansas, No. 6 Michigan, No. 9 Duke, No. 10 Kentucky, No. 19 North Carolina, etc.). But upon further examination, it becomes evident that one big-time program was left off the rankings.
For the first time since the 2006-07 season, Tom Izzo and the Michigan State Spartans are starting the year outside of the top 25.
After taking a No. 13 preseason rank in 2020-21, the Big Ten powerhouse struggled through a disappointing COVID-19 season. Including a first-round, overtime loss to UCLA in the NCAA Tournament, the Spartans finished the year at 15-13.
Izzo is upset but not surprised by his team’s preseason ranking.
“It does tick me off, but I understand it,” the 27th-year Michigan State head coach said, per insider Chris Solari.
Izzo on being out of AP top 25: "It does tick me off. but I understand it."
— Chris Solari (@chrissolari) October 20, 2021
While last year’s performance was certainly discouraging for the program, some incoming pieces this season provide the team with some solid upside.
Tyson Walker, a standout transfer from Northeastern who averaged 18.6 points per game and earned CAA Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2020-21, should make an immediate impact as Izzo’s starting point guard. The backcourt will also welcome the addition of five-star guard Max Christie, the nation’s No. 1 shooting guard in the 2021 class.
Izzo may be “ticked off” by his team’s absence from the top 25, but he and the Spartans have an immediate chance to right that ship.
On Nov. 9, Michigan State will open up its season with a marquee matchup against the preseason No. 3 Kansas Jayhawks.