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The Early Lead
Posted at 10:36 AM ET, 02/13/2012

Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo has Spartans poised for another Final Four run


Regardless of whether Michigan State earns a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, the Spartans will be a tough out next month. (Al Goldis - AP)

College basketball continues to steamroll toward March. Developments across the nation this weekend helped separate contenders from pretenders. Here are the five things we learned this weekend:

Tom Izzo can reach the Final Four … again: Don’t be surprised to see Michigan State in New Orleans for Izzo’z seventh Final Four appearance since 1999. Some cooled on the Spartans after they dropped games against North Carolina and Duke to open the season. But they have had few slip-ups since — losing two of three games by one point apiece — and turned in one of the more impressive performances of the season this weekend. They held Ohio State to 48 points in Columbus.

Kentucky is the team to beat: The Wildcats didn’t need this weekend to prove that they are the favorites to win the national title. But Coach John Calipari’s team underscored the point with an impressive victory in a unique environment at Vanderbilt. Freshman Anthony Davis should win every national award of consequence. The improvement of point guard Marquis Teague has been critical in Kentucky dominating almost everyone since that one-point loss at Indiana on Dec. 10.

Baylor has issues: The Bears would be unbeaten if they did not have to play Kansas and Missouri. Unfortunately, two losses to each have shown Baylor to be at a lower level than the top two teams in the Big 12. Some of the defensive issues that have plagued the Bears in the past re-emerged this weekend at Missouri. And Perry Jones III has not always played up to his capablity. The Bears have a tricky game tonight at home against Iowa State.


West Virginia's Keaton Miles, center, is double-teamed by Louisville's Wayne Blackshear (25) and Russ Smith, right, on Saturday in Morgantown. (David Smith - AP)

Watch out for Louisville: As good as Syracuse has played, it is easy to forget about everyone else in the Big East. But look out for the Cardinals, who have not lost since Jan. 16. Freshman Wayne Blackshear, who had been out since late October, played 20 minutes this weekend against West Virginia in his return. Louisville hosts Syracuse tonight.

Time may be running out for Bruce Weber: Even though Illinois has beaten Ohio State and Michigan State this season, reports suggest that Weber’s job could be in danger if the Fighting Illini’s slide continues. Weber’s team has lost six of seven games, and the Big Ten schedule remains formidable the rest of the way.

More on Washington Post Sports

Maryland coverage at Terrapins Insider

Virginia coverage at Cavaliers Journal

Virginia Tech coverage at Hokies Journal

By  |  10:36 AM ET, 02/13/2012

 
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