Michigan State Spartans

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Former Michigan State coach Jud Heathcote dies at 90

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Jud Heathcote, who won a national championship and 416 games in over a 30-year, has died, Michigan State announced Monday night.

He was 90 years old.

“The basketball world is a sadder place today with the passing of Jud Heathcote,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “No one cared more about the welfare of the game than Jud. He was a coach’s coach and a mentor to many. Our hearts are filled with sadness and deepest sympathy for his wife Beverly and the Heathcote family.

“Without a doubt, he was one of the most influential people in my life, giving me a chance when no one else would. Any coaching success I’ve ever had is because of him. Long after he left Michigan State, he was still one of the first people I would call when I had a tough decision to make in coaching or life.

“Michigan State has lost one of its icons today. And yet, nothing can erase his impact on the program, the players he coached and the coaches he mentored. SPartan basketball is what it is today because of Jud Heathcote.”

Heathcote won 336 games coaching the Spartans from 1976 until 1995 after starting his head coaching career at Montana. Heathcote, Magic Johnson and the Spartans won the 1979 NCAA tournament championship. In his career, Heathcote won three Big Ten regular season titles and went to nine NCAA tournaments.

“Coach Heathcote had an impact on so many people,” Spartans athletic director Mark Hollis said in a statement. “For me, he was among the best teachers I had the opportunity to be around. Reflecting on my career and life, Jud was among the most influential people in regards to my preparation for both.

“He will be missed, yet his memory will be seen through the many different people he impacted. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Bev and the entire Heathcote family.”

 

Miles Bridges explain why he returned to Michigan State

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Miles Bridges changed the landscape of the 2017-18 college basketball season on April 13.

The Michigan State forward spurned the NBA for another year in East Lansing. The decision not only meant that Bridges was a frontrunner for national player of the year, but solidified the Spartans as a national title contender.

But Bridges’ choice to return was still puzzling to many. The 6-foot-7 forward was projected as a lottery pick. Bridges explained his decision to Mike Decourcy of Sporting News in a story published on Thursday.

“He says, ‘You know what, Coach? I want to get better. I don’t want to be in the D-League. I’ve got buddies that are, and I just want to make sure when I go, I’m ready,’ ” Izzo recalled to Sporting News. “I looked at him and I said, ‘Done deal.’ For me, that was a done deal. It was a reasonable, sensible argument.”

Agents, friends, reporters, scouts, acquaintances, fans, strangers and family members — oh and, as we said, coaches — all had one opinion about how Bridges should spend the next year of his life. Miles had another, opposing, viewpoint.

Bridges told Decourcy that support came from his teammates, many of whom were returning to the team as well. Assuming the backcourt of Cassius Winston and Josh Langford make a leap forward, as well as incoming freshman Jaren Jackson providing an immediate impact, the Spartans’ title hopes could become a reality.

Bridges averaged 16.9 points, 8.3 boards, 2.1 assists and 1.5 blocks as a freshman at Michigan State. He’s rated as the No. 5 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft by DraftExpress.

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.