One of the teams that no one wants to see on their side of the bracket next month is getting better. Michigan State has managed to keep its efficiency rating high (currently #19 on KenPom) despite being classified as a bubble team by many bracketologists (Sparty is a #8 seed at Bracket Matrix). A shaky non-conference slate along with two early Big Ten losses to Maryland suggested that this might turn out to be a very disappointing season in East Lansing. Not so fast. The Spartans have quietly won four out of their last five games and have worked their way up to a three-way tie in the loss column (four) at second place in the league. The primary reason for this team hitting its stride at just the right time is senior forward Branden Dawson. The 6’6″ workhorse leads the league in rebounding and has been wreaking havoc all overt the floor defensively. His scoring touch around the rim has also returned, reminiscent of his postseason numbers from last year when he averaged 15.7 PPG and 8.1 RPG on 68.1 percent shooting from the floor.
Dawson struggled early this season before missing two games right before conference play. In looking at his statistical splits on a month-by-month basis, it’s easy to see that he’s playing his best ball at just the right time.
- November: (10.2 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 0.7 BPG, 52.8% FG)
- December: (11.2 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 0.8 BPG, 42.4% FG)
- January: (13.1 PPG, 12.3 RPG, 1.6 SPG, 1.6 BPG, 58.0% FG)
- February: (15.2 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 3.0 BPG, 66.7% FG)