Michigan State Spartans

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A father-son bond leads recruit to Michigan State commitment

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A burning desire to make a father proud led Michigan State’s newest commitment to East Lansing.

Gabe Brown, a three-star forward from Belleville, Mich., pledged to Tom Izzo on the Spartans on Tuesday, fulfilling a dream of a father no longer able to see it.

“When I was 14 years old and my dad was watching a basketball game on TV and it was Michigan State,” Brown wrote on social media. “He comes out of the room and comes into my room and says, ‘’Son, I want you to play for Michigan State. Tom Izzo is the greatest coach and he’s making pros.’

“When I was 15 years old my dad had a stroke and was in the hospital for months …In May of 2016 my dad passed away.”

After briefly considering quitting basketball, Brown returned to the sport determined to get a scholarship offer from Izzo in honor of his own father. It happened Saturday, when Izzo brought Brown to his office during a team camp to extend the offer.

“I almost broke down crying because I knew I achieved this goal for my dad,” Brown wrote, “and knew that I made my dad proud even though he couldn’t be there.”

For Brown, it’s a dream come true. For Michigan State, they get a versatile 6-foot-6 forward that’s one of the top players in the state.

“I am  happy to announce that I will be committing to MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY,” Brown wrote.

Miles Bridges is officially returning for his sophomore season

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Miles Bridges will return to Michigan State for his sophomore season, the program announced on Thursday evening.

This isn’t much of a surprise. The university had previously planned the announcement. The promotional picture for it even included the quote, “I’ve got something to say. It’s not about me, it’s about us.”

Bridges becomes the second projected lottery pick to elect to return for his sophomore season. Texas A&M big man Robert Williams announced he had decided not to enter the draft three weeks ago.

The 6-foot-7 Bridges averaged 16.9 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 1.5 blocks per game for the Spartans. Not only does this make him a shoo-in for preseason All-American teams, as CBT’s Rob Dauster wrote early on Thursday, it makes Sparty one of the title favorites entering the 2017-18 season.

Bridges expected to return for Michigan State on Wednesday

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Michigan State is about to get a major boost.

The Spartans are expecting the return of freshman Miles Bridges on Wednesday against Rutgers, coach Tom Izzo said Monday.

The 6-foot-7 forward has missed the last seven games due to an ankle injury after averaging 16.6 points and 8.8 rebounds to begin his college career.

“Our job is to try to get him some minutes,” Izzo said, according to MLive.com, “if everything goes well (Monday) and (Tuesday), and then see if we can build on that.”

The Spartans have certainly stayed afloat without their best player, going 6-1 (although that loss came to Northeastern), and are 2-0 in Big Ten play. They should have little trouble against Rutgers as Bridges re-acclimates to the lineup, and then they have Penn State on Saturday before a run against Minnesota, Ohio State, Indiana and Purdue.

If Bridges can get up to speed by then, it’ll go a long way for Michigan State trying to gain steady footing in a season that’s been upended some by a string of injuries.

“I think he’s in decent shape,” Izzo said. “He’s not going to be in playing shape, but decent shape.”

Michigan State’s tournament profile a question mark after Northeastern loss

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It’s time to start talking about whether or not Michigan State has cost themselves a shot at getting to the NCAA tournament.

On Sunday night, once again playing without starting forward Miles Bridges, the Spartans fell to 7-5 on the season with a 81-73 loss to Northeastern. That’s the same Northeastern team that won at UConn earlier this season, which seems like it may not be all that bad of a loss until you consider that A) UConn is not good this season, and B) Northeastern has also lost to Boston U., LIU-Brooklyn, Stony Brook, Cornell and Harvard.

Here’s the situation that the Spartans are in right now. They don’t have a quality non-conference win unless you consider their win over Wichita State, who lost by 17 at home to Oklahoma State on Saturday, a quality win. They also, however, only have one catastrophic loss, and that loss came with Bridges out of the lineup, something that the selection committee will take into consideration.

The determining factor, then, is going to be how Michigan State does in Big Ten play, and there are a couple of factors to be worried about here. For starters, the Big Ten appears to be tiered this year. Wisconsin, Indiana and Purdue look like they are the clear-cut top three teams in the league. Once you get past that, there is a logjam of teams that look like they’ll end up being in contention to get an at-large bid without really being good enough to threaten for the league title. The Michigans and Marylands and Ohio States and Northwesterns of the world.

The Spartans right now probably fall somewhere in the back end of that tier.

And that’s concerning.

But the other issue is that Tom Izzo’s team will only get four chances against that elite group. They play Indiana twice and get both Purdue and Wisconsin in East Lansing.

My guess?

Michigan State needs to go at least 11-7 in Big Ten play and get two wins against the top three teams in the league to avoid missing the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1997.

I’ll let you decide whether or not they’re actually capable of doing that.

CBT Roundtable: College Basketball’s Biggest Disappointments

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Travis Hines: Given the expectations weren’t all that high for the Huskies, consider this one hell of an achievement to find them here. They’ve been that bad while Markelle Fultz has been amazing. You have to start with Fultz’s brilliance to fully understand Washington’s ineptitude. The potential No. 1 draft pick is averaging 22.8 points on 49.7 percent shooting from the floor and 48.7 percent from the 3-point line while also putting up 6.9 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game. Throw in the 2.1 steals and 1.2 blocks, and he’s literally on pace to post numbers that have never been posted in college basketball. As a freshman. That’s just absurd. What else is absurd is that Washington has a guy of Fultz’s caliber performing up to the hype and still somehow sits 4-5 with losses to Yale, TCU (twice), Nevada and Gonzaga, which came in especially embarrassing fashion in a 27-point drubbing on national television.

The “how’ of Washington’s struggles clearly land on the defensive end of the floor, where one coach remarked to our Rob Dauster that “They were so ******* bad on defense. It was like they had never been coached. They had no plan.” So, that’s not good, I don’t think. The Huskies’ season is disappointing on a number of levels, first being it appears that we won’t be watching Fultz in the NCAA tournament, which is a bummer. The second is Lorenzo Romar didn’t need to surround Fultz with McDonald’s All-Americans to have a successful season. Capable dudes (given a defensive plan) would have been enough. And Washington wasn’t able to do that. How disappointing.

Rob Dauster: UConn has been an absolute mess this season. They lost to Wagner and Northeastern at home in their first two games. They barely escaped Loyola Marymount with a win. They went 1-2 in the Maui Invitational, with the one win coming in a closer-than-it-should’ve-been win over Chaminade. If that wasn’t enough, UConn has also been devastated by injury, with two starters – McDonald’s all-american point guard Alterique Gilbert and Terry Larrier, who was their best player at the start of the year – going down with season-ending injuries. This was a team that entered the season with a legitimate case to be considered a top 25 team and is, in all likelihood, going to end the year with a win over a potentially NIT-bound Syracuse team in Madison Square Garden being the highlight of their year.

This is how bad things have gotten for UConn: When I was at the game at MSG, a UConn fan told me that he would consider this season a success “if UConn shows up as a bad loss when they show Syracuse’s NCAA tournament résumé.” For a team that has won two of the last six national titles, that’s quite a fall from grace.

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Terrence Payne: Outside of the major six conferences, the Atlantic 10 is up there as one of the best. The A10 looked like it was on its way to another banner year when the preseason poll included both Rhode Island and Dayton. Currently, both teams find themselves outside the top-25, but more importantly, the conference as a whole finds itself with an underwhelming non-conference résumé. The A-10 is slightly above the American Athletic Conference for seventh place in the Conference RPI rankings, while KenPom rates the A10 as the eighth toughest league.

Rhode Island landed an early-season victory over No. 24 Cincinnati on a neutral floor, but the Rams have lost three out of four, all on the road, to Valparaiso, Providence and Houston. Dayton has been plagued by injuries to Kendall Pollard and transfer Josh Cunningham, which contributed to a 2-2 start. The Flyers have won five straight since, but Dayton could enter conference player with its best out of league win being against Northwestern or New Mexico, neither team pegged to land an at-large bid at this point. And it’s not just the team’s that began the season ranked. VCU, another A-10 power, hasn’t looked up to par, dropping back-to-back games against Illinois and Georgia Tech.

With a few weeks before conference play begins, the A-10 is lacking signature wins. Three years after receiving six bids, an all-time high for the conference, the A-10 is on pace to have, at best, half that amount this upcoming March.

Scott Phillips: It’s tough to call a young, injury-riddled team disappointing, but if Tom Izzo can angrily sit at the end of his own bench in the middle of games then we’re allowed to have such feelings. This Spartans team is 7-4 with single-digit home wins over Florida Gulf Coast, Oral Roberts and Tennessee Tech. Michigan State’s rebounding and free-throw shooting woes have cast serious concerns about their ability to win games early in the Big Ten without Miles Bridges. Of course, I expect Michigan State to make the NCAA tournament – and figure things out quickly – but they better do that before conference play begins.

No. 5 Duke pulls away late to beat Michigan State

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Grayson Allen scored 16 of his 24 points in the second half as No. 5 Duke pulled away from Michigan State down the stretch in a 78-69 win over the Spartans.

Luke Kennard added 20 points for the Blue Devils, who struggled shooting the ball for much of the game as their rotation was limited to just six players. Mike Krzyzewski started four guards – Allen, Kennard, Frank Jackson and Matt Jones – along with Amile Jefferson, while Chase Jeter chipped in with 22 minutes off the bench.

The good news, at least, is that it looks like the Blue Devils are getting closer to being healthy. Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles III and Marques Bolden warmed up with the team prior to the game and Tatum was in his jersey on the bench. They’re getting closer.

That matters because the single biggest takeaway from Tuesday night’s game was that neither of these teams are anywhere near their best right now.

Duke’s issues are obvious, and ones that I wrote about in this column: They’re missing three first round picks while a fourth, Allen, is playing through a painful toe injury. On the one hand, all this experience is a good thing for guys like Kennard, Jackson and Jeter. On the other hand, it means that there are going to be some guys that will have to adjust to playing significantly fewer minutes once the stars make their way back.

That’s where we are with Duke, and it’s where we’ve been for the last month.

And Michigan State?

Well, they’re still a team going through the growing pains of being young and losing two senior bigs to knee injuries, just like they were when I wrote this column. They’ve shown flashes – the first half tonight, the first 25 minutes against Wichita State, St. John’s – but they’re still not a finished product.

That will come with time. And practice, which the Spartans will get more of now that they’re insane travel schedule has come to an end. This team will be better in March, just like Duke will.

But for now, this is what we get with these two.