Tom Izzo is openly lobbying for someone else to move to No. 1 in next week's rankings.
"We've just got to hope now that Kansas blows somebody out so they move them ahead of us," the Michigan State coach said. "We proved tonight we're not ready to handle any kind of success, and that disappoints me."
The angst was back in Izzo's voice Friday night, even though No. 2 Michigan State did pull away from upset-minded Columbia in the final two minutes for a 62-53 victory. The Spartans trailed for a majority of the second half, but Adreian Payne was too much for the Lions inside, finishing with 26 points.
Michigan State (3-0) beat top-ranked Kentucky earlier in the week, and No. 5 Kansas beat No. 4 Duke. Unbeaten Louisville is No. 3.
Maodo Lo had 12 points for Columbia (1-2), which kept its poise for the most part but went scoreless for the final 4:27.
"All credit to Columbia. They came out and played their heart out," Michigan State's Denzel Valentine said. "We need to come out with more energy and passion than we did today."
Michigan State scored the game's first nine points, but the Spartans trailed 26-22 at halftime and didn't lead again until Gary Harris' three-point play put Michigan State ahead 49-46 with 7:28 to go.
Columbia's Meiko Lyles made a 3-pointer with 6:08 to go to tie it at 51, and the Lions trailed 54-53 after a layup by Alex Rosenberg, but they didn't score again.
Down 55-53, Columbia committed back-to-back shot clock violations. The Lions may have been thrown off by the Michigan State crowd, which was counting the clock down falsely - a couple seconds too late.
"When that happened, I almost got up and thanked them," Izzo said. "I didn't want to embarrass anybody."
Still, Columbia had a chance to tie it with 1:47 to go, but Isaac Cohen missed the front end of a one-and-one. At the other end, Keith Appling drove into the teeth of the Columbia defense and lobbed an alley-oop to Payne that made it 57-53.
Michigan State hasn't been No. 1 in the AP poll since 2001, the year after the Spartans won the national championship.
"I'll just save you guys the embarrassment of writing stupid things," Izzo said. "We haven't proven enough to be considered a great team. We're a doggone good team with a long, long way to go."
The Spartans were obviously in danger of a letdown after beating Kentucky, but they appeared to avoid that when they opened the game on a 9-0 run.
But perhaps the game was a little too easy for Michigan State at the start. The Spartans ended up shooting 35 percent in the first half, and Columbia got comfortable quickly.
Rosenberg's layup capped a 9-0 run for the Lions that put them ahead 14-11, and Michigan State had a hard time shaking them after that.
"It all falls on our energy level," Appling said. "They took advantage of that. They were in position to win."
Payne had 11 rebounds and shot 9 of 15 from the field. The Spartans attempted 30 free throws to Columbia's 11, but although they had some success inside in the second half, they finished 0 of 7 from 3-point range.
Michigan State also had only five offensive rebounds.
"I'll take most of the blame because I'm the one that's supposed to have them ready to play," Izzo said. "Rebounding here is a religion, and maybe this team wants to change that, so I've got to make sure that doesn't happen."
Harris scored 11 points and Valentine had 10.
Cohen and Rosenberg had 10 points each for the Lions.
"You play to win. We try to compete and win," Columbia coach Kyle Smith said. "But the moral victory is that we were competitive, and I expected that. Our guys bring a good effort."