It was a late night at The Realests Thursday as votes poured in from the Iowa caucus for Realest of the Year. Britney Spears is the current front-runner but you know us - we need a good flip in everything we do. This thing's still up in the air. In the meantime, we turn our attention to the resurgent Michigan State Spartans.

2006-07 Record: 23-12
Projected Finish: 2nd
Returning Starters: 5
Head Coach: Tom Izzo
Best Player: Raymar Morgan (17.4 PPG)

3 Reasons for Optimism:

1) Raymar Morgan might be the most improved player in the country. After a decent freshman year slowed by injury, the guy has turned into Gerald Wallace, averaging 17 and 7, while averaging a freakish 59% from the field. Expect Zack Gibson to take a lot of "nuts on your chin" dunks like this when we head to East Lansing Jan. 27.

2) Most Big Ten teams don't have one decent point guard. Michigan State has two great ones. Super frosh Kalin Lucas doesn't even start and people are already talking about the 2008 Draft. And Drew Neitzel's finally finishing his 13-year career at MSU. To say the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year's stats are down is deceiving, because the guy had no help last year. The Neo-Nazi is still deadly from behind the arc (45 FG%).

3) It's Tom Izzo, people. How long do you really expect him to stay down after two very average years? The guy's made the Sweet Sixteen 6 times in 12 years. The Spartans look like a lock to make it #7.

3 Reasons for Pessimism:

1) They lost to at home to Division II Grand Valley State! Granted, it was an exhibition game, but they almost lost another preseason game against Michigan Tech, then laid an egg against Oakland (W, 75-71).

2) We aren't sold on the front court of Naymick, Suton and Gray. "Fire Crotch" and Suton aren't offensive threats and Marquise Gray has redefined "overhyped" since coming to Michigan State, replacing Kelvin Torbert's mug in the dictionary. Rated among the best PFs in the class of 2004 with Al Jefferson, LaMarcus Aldridge and D.J. White, Gray's hurt more than Larry Hughes.

3) The Spartans are ranked way, way too high right now. How do two quality wins over Texas and BYU get you rated No. 6 in the country over Georgetown, Tennessee and Duke?

It's no secret the Big Ten is a two-horse race between Michigan State and Indiana. We give the edge to Indiana because of their 1-2 punch of D.J. White and "The Doughboy" Eric Gordon, plus Kelvin Sampson will do whatever amount of cheating it takes to win. We like that in a coach.

Sparty will get by fine with Gray and Suton in the paint for Big Ten season, and they should end up beating us by 65 in a couple weeks (stop complaining about only playing them once, it just saves us one more ass-kicking in Crisler this year).

But if they get a bad matchup in the tournament, watch out.

Eventually they'll have to get by a Kevin Love or Roy Hibbert to get to the Final Four, and we don't see that happening.

Our second prediction: by this time next year, Neitzel will make national headlines getting arrested looking like this.

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