Michigan State finds itself in unusual territory this season, looking at a losing record in B1G play midway through February.

The Spartans have dealt with a host of issues this year while adjusting to life without Cassius Winston and Xavier Tillman. Among those issues is a long layoff due to COVID-19 and a rough stretch since returning to the court.

During Tuesday’s Sportscenter on ESPN, college hoops analysts LaPhonso Ellis and Seth Greenberg discussed what has gone wrong for Michigan State this year. Ellis especially hit on the departures of Winston and Tillman as two things that left the Spartans without key experience entering this season:

“They don’t have an elite-level point guard and leadership at that position,” said Ellis. “Remember, Cassius Winston had been there for four years, and he was a guy that could not only create offense for himself, but he could create easy offense for his teammates.

“Another guy they’re missing is Xavier Tillman. They could throw it into him, he could make moves and score on the offensive glass. He could knock down three’s as well. No replacement for those two guys, you get a Sparty team that’s struggling.”

Greenberg agreed with Ellis and added on that the players who did return for Michigan State are adjusting to new roles on the court:

“The other returning guys, think about this, they all have different roles. Rocket Watts started a bunch of games last year but he started at two-guard. Aaron Henry is a guy that has to step up, and they need a consistent frontcourt star to complement Henry, and they haven’t gotten that,” explained Greenberg.

At 10-8 overall and 4-8 in B1G play, Tom Izzo’s squad remains in serious jeopardy of missing the NCAA Tournament. If that happens, it would be the first year since 1997 that the Spartans do not go dancing in March Madness.