Michigan State Spartans

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VIDEO: Tom Izzo appears on Judge Mathis

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When sports figures, be they athletes or coaches, make guest appearances on television shows they’re usually seen on sitcoms with the occasional drama mixed in. A show in which court cases are argued? That doesn’t happen all too often.

Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo did just that during the summer, as he was part of the courtroom audience on “Judge Mathis.” The episode was filmed in mid August.

Judge Mathis took time to acknowledge Izzo’s presence in the court room, as his daughter was a student-assistant to the head coach during her time as a Michigan State student. Seated next to Izzo was Michigan State assistant Mike Garland.

Four takeaways from No. 3 Michigan State’s dominating win over No. 5 Notre Dame

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With the ACC having already secured a landslide victory in its annual challenge with the Big Ten, Thursday night promised to offer some respite into the one-sidedness of the competition.

Well, the Big Ten added to its paltry win total, but there wasn’t much in the way of competition as No. 3 Michigan State walloped No. 5 Notre Dame, 81-63, to improve to 6-1 on the season and send the Fighting Irish to their first loss of the season.

The Spartans controlled the game from the outset, getting up big early and withstanding a second-half charge from the Irish.  Notre Dame, especially at the Breslin Center, was simply no match for Michigan State.

Josh Langford and Cassius Winston both had 17 for the Spartans with Winston also contributing seven assists. Miles Bridges had 14 points and Nick Ward 12.

Bonzie Colson led the way for the Irish with 17 points while Rex Pflueger had 15.

It was a dominating performance from the Spartans, who have made a habit of being dominating since that Champion’s Classic loss to Duke. Their last five wins have all come by at least 18 points.

Here’s what we learned Thursday:

Michigan State at full-bore is scary good

The Spartans were dominant for about 30 minutes of this game, having to withstand about a 10-minute second-half push from Notre Dame. When they were on, it was clear that Michigan State is among the top tier of teams that appear capable of winning a national championship. Duke’s win over Tom Izzo’s team and its run through the PK80 has them at the front of the line right now, but the Spartans aren’t far behind.

Against a top-five opponent, Michigan State shot 51.4 percent in the first half despite 4 of 13 from 3-point range. The held the Fighting Irish to 37.9 percent shooting (3 of 11 from 3) and forced six turnovers to be 20 points better heading into halftime.

There was that lull from the Spartans after halftime – and give credit to Notre Dame for punching back – but Michigan State still at least 12 points from four starters and nine from Matt McQuaid off the bench. Jaren Jackson was the sole starter not to break 10 points, but foul trouble limited to 14 minutes and he still managed three blocks.

It’s not surprising or news to notice that Michigan State is really, really good, but it’s still impressive to see them at full stride.

Bonzie Colson is awesome, but does have his limitations

The Notre Dame senior is one of the best players in college basketball. He’s incredibly fun to watch as a 6-foot-5 forward with an expansive wingspan. The guy gets buckets.

But when faced with a defender with size, length and/or athletcism, it can cause problems for him.

That’s what happened Thursday night.

Colson was 6 of 19 from the floor (31.5 percent) against the Spartans, who were able to throw a number of defenders at him, though it was Jackson (6-10 with a 7-f wingspan) that really gave him fits. What makes him so strong is his efficiency, and Michigan State took that away completely.

Miles Bridges shouldn’t settle for jumpers

Michigan State’s star had a so-so night with 14 points, six rebounds, four assists and a block, but he was 6 of 15 from the floor and committed three turnovers in 32 minutes. The biggest issue for Bridges is that he wasn’t getting to the rim in the halfcourt with much consistency, instead launching 3s. He made just 1 of 7.

Bridges can make 3s. He’s actually a pretty good shooter from distance, having converted at a 38.9 percent clip last year and coming in at 36 percent this year. But he’s too much of a dynamic physical weapon with his size and athleticism to shoot from 3 that much, taking the pressure of a defense that would likely nothing more than to avoid the prospect of getting dunked on by Miles Bridges. He’s shot at least five 3s in four of Michigan State’s seven games.

If Bridges can use the 3-point shot more as a strategic threat than principal play, it’ll go a long way.

The Spartans are going to blow through the Big Ten

The Big Ten got absolutely waxed in its annual matchup with the ACC, dropping 11 of 15 games. It’s a pretty good indication that the league, as a whole, just isn’t as strong as most years. Minnesota and Purdue have probably looked the best of the potential contenders, but neither of those teams appear to be at an elite level.

That really just leaves Michigan State to carry the banner for the conference this season, and, as noted above, they are more than capable of doing just that. The Spartans appear poised for a No. 1 seed in a couple months, and, given that it won’t be surprising if they clear the Big Ten by three or more games, the conversation will likely be about their worthiness for the top overall seed.

Miles Bridges discusses being offered money during recruiting process

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With the FBI launching an investigation into corruption and fraud in college basketball last month, the entire sport has found itself under the microscope. Ten people, including four Division I assistant coaches, were arrested and there’s no telling just how long the FBI’s investigation will last or what information it will produce.

Michigan State forward Miles Bridges is considered by many to be the leading candidate for national Player of the Yeah honors, and he had the opportunity to turn pro after a good freshman season. But Bridges made the decision to return to East Lansing, and with that comes questions as to why he would do that as opposed to cashing in on his NBA potential as soon as possible.

In an interview with Brendan Quinn of The Athletic (subscription required) Bridges discussed a host of issues, including being offered money by people while going through the recruiting process.

“I mean, if you get caught, that might be the end of your career. I wanted to play in college really bad,” Bridges told Quinn. “I don’t know — materialistic things, they don’t really get to me. So when people were offering me money, I would say no right away, because I wanted to be able to live out my college experience. But really, I don’t know, it is hard, especially because I was so young at the time — 17.”

Given the ongoing investigation, high-profile players and teams will be on the receiving end of increased scrutiny even if they aren’t part of the FBI probe. It’s an unfair situation for a player like Bridges to deal with, as even in the actual cases of alleged wrongdoing the players themselves are essentially commodities whose services are being auctioned as opposed to the main characters looking to cash in.

Unfortunately, due to recent events a decision like the one made by Bridges will result in some questioning whether or not the player received something from the school or another entity/individual. And that’s a tough — and unfair — thing for a young player to have to deal with.

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.