This season, Mike Castellani (AKA SpartyInTheUSA) is going to let you dive into his brain and see the odd, yet spot on player rankings of your Michigan State Spartans. Buckle up, Spartans.
Miles Bridges – This was the version of Miles Bridges that only the most optimistic version of SpartyInTheUSA dreamed he would see on the basketball court this year. Ruthlessly efficient inside and out, Miles was getting to the basket and hitting big three’s. He showed his offensive versatility with everything from spot up three’s to a coast to coast drive to end the half. He drew some tough defensive assignments with Goins and Ward in foul trouble, but was able to hold his own in the post against Swanigan and finished with four blocked shots (fun fact: Microsoft Word autocorrects Swanigan to Swagman). Miles finished with two dunks that belong in the museum of college basketball dunks, only made sweeter by the fact that one was over the top of Spike Albrecht and the other was due to a missed Swanigan box out. What’s most impressive is that Miles was able to keep Michigan State in this game even after he missed his first shot and Izzo jumped on him. Instead of sulking, Miles responded by demonstrating that he was the best all-around player on the court against Purdue, he just needed a little more help from him teammates to pull off a W. If you’re ordering a pizza with your friends, the go to topping, the staple, the part of the pizza that holds everything together is the Pepperoni. The Pepperoni is the best pizza topping, same as Miles Bridges was the best player against Purdue. If we get another 35 point game from him and lose, I’m fairly certain Izzo will retire before he reaches the locker room.
Eron Harris – Man, I’m still not too sure what to make of Eron Harris last night. MSU needed a player to step up, and Eron stepped up until about the first TV timeout, draining a 3 to make it 3 to 0, a score that would have certainly been impossible to overcome had this been a soccer game. He added another jumper and a steal during that stretch, but ultimately didn’t do enough to help MSU win in a game where we needed him to knock down shots. Also, he was part of the unit that was outplayed by Carsen Edwards and PJ Thompson, in a matchup of backcourts that should have been favorable for Michigan State. Eron Harris’ performance today reminded me of Ham on a pizza. Sure, it’s still a meat and you could end up with a worse topping, but it’s still one of the worse meats. If anyone says “I want Ham on my pizza” consider kicking them out of your friend group for a new friend that likes something else. Harris overall was ok for a bit, finishing with 9 points and 2 assists, but MSU needs more from their senior starter.
Joshua Langford – Josh didn’t do much in the game against Purdue, but he didn’t really do anything bad either. His early 3 gave MSU some confidence and a 15 – 11 lead that would have certainly been impossible to recover from had this been a soccer match. From there, Langford’s stat line remains relatively quiet, only notching one assist and zero rebounds in 20 minutes of basketball. Langford was the spinach of a pizza topping last night. Spinach is pretty good for you, but relatively tasteless and sometimes you barely notice it’s there.
Nick Ward – Nick Ward’s night essentially ended with him getting elbowed in the face in front of the refs, and still rising to the occasion and getting a stop, which I thought seemed appropriate given how the rest of the game had played out. I thought Nick playing well was our best hope of neutralizing Swanigan enough to give us a chance to win at the end, but some weird foul calls and defensive mishaps really hampered his ability to fully affect the game, playing only 19 minutes. However, I was impressed with Nick’s ability to hang on the offensive end, going straight at Haas and Swanigan on separate occasions. Unfortunately, Nick ended up making some freshman defensive mistakes that were bound to happen playing against Swanigan. On one trip he didn’t close out on Swanigan giving up a three and on a possession a few trips later, he closed out too hard and allowed Swanigan an offensive rebound and layup that drew ire from Tom Izzo. Personally, I think Nick gave a heck of an effort against one of the better big men in the country, and for that he earns the pizza topping Bacon. Standing alone, Bacon is great and sometimes the only reason to get out of bed on a Saturday unless you have plans to drink before noon. Putting it on a pizza, however, is tough. Sometimes it’s overcooked and sometimes it’s undercooked and can put a stain on the Bacon name. Nick is a great player, but putting him up against Swanigan was a game that Nick had to be perfect in to really give MSU a chance, and he probably looked worse than he actually was considering his assignments.
Tum Tum and Matt Van Dyk – Tum had zero points (only 13 points off his career high) and so did Matt. What’s most frustrating about Tum is that this came on 0 shot attempts the entire game. His 6 assist were great but I’d love to see Tum hit a few shots and gain some confidence, or look to shoot a few times a game. PJ Thompson is 5’10 and Carsen Edwards is a freshman, so you’d think they would be prime candidates for Tum to break out of his shell, but he ended up being outplayed by the both of them and allowed Carsen Edwards to keep Purdue in the game early when MSU was shooting lights out. Matt didn’t score either, although that wasn’t really his role. He wins the “Tim Bograkos” award for hustle play that pumps up the crowd, with his steal towards the end of the first half on an entry pass. Matt probably never envisioned himself played against Caleb Swanigan and Issac Haas, and it was obvious he was outmatched. Tum is more concerning, as he is the starting point guard for a hall of fame coach that has built a premier basketball program since the 2000’s. Tum and Matt were the tomato pizza topping against Purdue, just has no business being on a pizza.
Cassius Winston - Cassius was able to exploit the Purdue guards in the 22 minutes he got on the floor, scoring 8 points and dishing out 3 assists. He looked way more at home in this game than he has lately, and I hope that carries over against Michigan. The spin move Cassius had for a layup in the first half was a flash of the brilliance we will expect from him in a few years. It’s a lot of weight to put on a freshman reserve, but we need more from Cassius going forward because Bridges and Ward can only carry the team so far. Mushrooms are great, but a lot of the time they’re sliced really thing and kind of blend into the background of a pizza. Cassius reminded me of mushrooms on a pizza against Purdue, he was good, but we really need a little more from him.
Matt McQuaid – There were a few signs of life from Matt against Purdue! His perimeter defense was appalling at times, letting Carsen Edwards in for an uncontested layup, and he managed to throw up an air ball in the first half from beyond the arc. However, Matt did make a 3! It speaks a lot to how this season has gone that that is a sentence I feel the need to end with an exclamation point. Pineapple on a pizza is generally a bad idea, but it’s healthy so you can somewhat justify putting up with it. Against Purdue, McQuaid’s made 3 gave Izzo justification for sticking with him especially because we were running out of healthy bodies, but it wasn’t anyone’s first choice.
Kenny Goins – Similar to Nick Ward, I thought Kenny was a warrior. He was thrown into an extremely tough situation (you may notice a pattern here) of having to guard Caleb Swanigan and Isaac Haas. However, Kenny has to cut down on the offensive fouls and moving screens. That’s a mental mistake that has to drive Izzo wild since it drives me wild watching on television. Kenny reminds me of ordering Shrimp on a pizza. Shrimp is pretty good, but it doesn’t belong near a pizza! I’d love to see Kenny get back to his natural position and being a stretch 4, but unfortunately MSU doesn’t really have that luxury against big teams.