I will say it more more time. DAMN, it is good to have hoops back in our lives. Something about hearing Jay Bilas talk way too much about Duke and watching Tom Izzo scream at the officials to the point of popping more than one blood vessel make me feel safe and warm.
The Spartans took the floor in Hawaii tonight to face off in the first offical game of the year against Arizona in the Armed Forces Classic. While the game looked to be a blow out from Michigan State as they jumped out to a 17-2 lead early, turnovers and sloppy play let the Wildcats get back in it. The game was close down the stretch after a three by Tum Tum Nairn that tied the game at 63 with less than ten seconds left but a Kadeem Allen coast to coast drive ended in a lay-up with 2 seconds remaining gave the Wildcats the 65-63 win over MSU.
There was a lot we learned from Michigan State in this one, but let’s dive into the top three right now.
Miles Bridges is Really, Really Good
Yeah, this kid can play. He ended his MSU debut with 21 points on 9-19 shooting (1-6 from behind the arc). He added in 7 boards, 2 assists and a steal as well. That seems decent but it was apparent pretty early how much of an emotional leader this kid is going to be. He was moving around, screaming after dunks and showing passion that you love to see on the court. Not only that, but the plays this dude was making made me say “Holy (insert expletive here)!” on more that one occasion. My girlfirend even popped her head in the room to make sure everything was alright.
I mean, just look at this:
"Miles Bridges dunks on the way up" - Bilas https://t.co/W828fekYUW— Ricky O'Donnell (@SBN_Ricky) November 12, 2016
There were a few times he got ahead of himself. He even got the real MSU introduction when he made Tom Izzo go full on Tom Izzo:
Glad to know that the Hall of Fame hasn't changed Coach Izzo. pic.twitter.com/mZUnYF8fML— The Only Colors (@TheOnlyColors) November 12, 2016
It is going to be a fun year with Bridges, but he is going to need to get some of those young guy mistakes in check. Speaking of young guys...
The Youth Movement Is Alive and Well in East Lansing
There was a point in the Spartans 17-2 run in the first half where all 4 freshman were on the floor at the same time. Coach Izzo has eluded to a time when these 4 might be starting games for Michigan State. Joshua Langford came in off the bench and he didn’t take long to get in to grove knocking down an early trey, Nick Ward saw some good looks in the second half and really put those extra pounds to his advantage down low and Cassius Winston had a few assists that showed us why Izzo says he might be the best passer in East Lansing since Magic Johnson.
That was all great, until it wasn’t.
Ask any coach, when you have a young team there are two things you have to worry about: turnovers and fouls. This Michigan State team is no exception to that rule. The Spartans had a terrible 8 minute stretch in the first half where they scored exactly zero points yet committed 7 turnovers and 5 fouls. Yeah, not good. These guys are crazy talented but they need to get the mistakes in check or the games against UK, Louisville and Duke in the next month are not going to be pretty.
Size Might Be An Issue
Michigan State was out rebounded 36-33 tonight but it ver easily could have been more. As I talked about in the preview for this post, Arizona had 3 players on thier team that were all over 7 feet tall. That is obviously not going to be the case for every school the Spartans face this year but for stretches it was very apparent how out matched the Spartans were on the glass. If it were not for the immense hustle of Miles Bridges, this could have been a game where the Wildcats put up a double digit difference on the Spartans. The big freshman for Arizona, Lauri Markkanen, pulled down 6 boards but he was not nearly as physical as some of the big men in the country will be this year.
While it is good that Goins appears to be okay after a scare in the second half, time can not move fast enough in recovery process for Gavin Schilling and Ben Carter.
The Spartans next game is this Tuesday as they take on Kentucky from Madison Square Garden for the Champion’s Classic. Game can be seen at 7pm ET on ESPN and WatchESPN.