Five Up, Five Down: Believe in the Spartans again

For a while there, I was a bit concerned about my preseason pick of Michigan State to cut down the nets in Houston come April.

Tom Izzo's team had weathered the storm without Denzel Valentine, only losing once in the four-game stretch he was absent, on the road to Iowa.

But then came the three-game skid that began with a setback to Iowa in East Lansing. A road loss in Madison to a scuffling Wisconsin club followed, then another home blunder to a mediocre Nebraska team.

Michigan State and Valentine had lost their mojo. The Spartans looked like just another team in the middle of January, and didn't remotely resemble the one that reeled off 13 consecutive victories to begin the season and shoot up to No. 1 in the polls.

Well, Sparty is back.