Back in October, before the college basketball season even began, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo decided to do something he had never done in his career -- not elect captains.

It wasn't an experiment, really. Just something different that happened with a different type of team.

"For the first time in my whole career, it doesn't bother me one bit," Izzo said at the time, before his team had played one game. "This group has gotten along so well, if it ain't broke, why fix it? It's almost like they're determining things themselves, which is really cool. It's not quite as comforting.

"Most years I've panicked over it and I've said we've got to do this and got to do that. This year I'm trying to embrace it. I've almost enjoyed it. We'll see what happens as we go."

What has happened? Michigan State is currently 21-5 and tied with Michigan atop the Big Ten standings at 10-3 with just five games to go in the regular season. It still has all its goals in front of it and the Spartans have two of their three injured starters back in the lineup.

But Sunday's loss to Nebraska at home was troubling, and the origins of the lack of energy and lack of respect for the opponent can be traced back to one thing -- leadership. There was no one in the locker room who wanted their voice heard above the rest.

"That's why I don't have a captain," Izzo said. "I mean, but we've done just fine without it. And the problem is, guys are playing their roles, and (Adreian Payne) comes back and he's important, but he's got to play within the framework of helping the other four guys. It's not just him doing his thing. He comes back and wants to make up for lost time.