Michigan State finished up a historical regular season on Sunday by beating Wisconsin to claim the program’s first outright Big Ten title since 2009. They finished the regular season winning 12 straight games and their 28 wins are the most in the regular season in school history.
The Spartans were picked to be one of the best teams in the country in the pre-season, and they answered the call.
With this being awards season, we thought we should hand out some hardware for some of the best Spartan performances of the regular season, with the hope of even bigger things to come as we head into March. We tabulated votes from seven of the writers at TOC to determine the winners. On to the awards...
Best Single Game Performance
This was a tough one for our guys to narrow down. We had three different performances by two different players receive votes in this category. Jaren Jackson’s career high 27 point performance against Minnesota and Cassius Winston’s sharp shooting game this past Sunday at Wisconsin each got consideration.
But in the end the winner was Cassius Winston leading the epic comeback against Northwestern.
Winston finished the game with 17 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists, and was 4-of-6 from beyond the arc. Winston was the driving force in the Spartans miraculous second half comeback, after being down by as many as 27 points in the first half.
I was at this game live and it was incredible to watch Winston take over the game both by scoring, and by getting the ball to both Ward and Jackson down low. He was in complete control and playing with total confidence during the 22-0 run that got MSU a lead they would never relinquish.
While several of our categories produced quite a few different answers from our staff, this one did not. In fact this was the lone unanimous pick in the entire process. What else could it be really?
Miles Bridges game winning shot against Purdue goes down as everyone’s pick here at TOC for the best moment of the year. And it is hard to argue when you see the fan reaction in the clip above. MSU badly needed this game not only to stay in contention for the Big Ten title, but also for their tournament seeding resume.
Bridges delivered in the clutch and the Spartans would go on to win the title outright. Big players live for big moments, and Bridges gave us the best one of the year.
And this is the perfect transition into our winner for best game of the year. While the comeback against Northwestern grabbed a pair of votes, the other five went to the match-up with the Boilermakers that ended with the winner for best moment of the year.
As mentioned above, everyone knew how huge the game was coming in, as MSU needed to knock off Purdue to even have a fighting chance at the conference title. At the time, the Boilers were 12-1 in conference play, tied with Ohio State for first place, with the Buckeyes having beaten Purdue earlier in the week. Michigan State needed a win to pull even with Purdue for second, and hope for at least one more Ohio State loss.
In the end they got the two losses they needed from OSU, and another one from Purdue to give them the outright title. But it all started with that game in East Lansing.
MSU trailed by five at halftime, and by seven with about 14 minutes to play. But a couple of big Matt McQuaid threes got them back into it and the Spartans took the lead with just over nine minutes to go.
It was back and forth over the final nine minutes, with Purdue taking the lead on an Isaac Haas shot with about a minute to play. Kenny Goins answered for the Spartans on the next possession and after a Haas miss, it was Miles Bridges time.
It was a game that felt like a March conference tournament final, and we very well may see a rematch this weekend.
Bench Player of the Year
This one was close to unanimous, with one lone vote going to the runner-up Kenny Goins. The rest of the votes went to none other than Matty Ice Buckets himself, Matt McQuaid.
McQuaid came off the bench for the Spartans in 29 of their 31 games, with his two starts coming during the first two rounds of the PK80 Tournament back in November when Miles Bridges was nursing a sore ankle. He finished the year averaging 6.2 points, 1.9 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game. He shot 40.2% from beyond the arc and 85.2% at the free throw line.
Despite coming off the bench, McQuaid was actually fifth on the team in minutes per game, averaging a little over 20 minutes a contest.
It wasn’t always pretty, but McQuaid had some huge moments this year for the Spartans. We mentioned his two big threes against Purdue, but he also had big shots against Penn State and Indiana, and put up 20 points against DePaul on 6-of-8 shooting from three with Miles Bridges missing the game.
In addition to his sharp shooting, McQuaid has greatly improved his defense and was often used late in close games by Izzo to try and shut down opponents top guards. He’s not yet a great defender, but he has come a long way and the work that he has put in to get better has really shown this year.
I doubt we have seen the last of the big shots from McQuaid this year, and despite some of his streaky tendencies, he’s someone I don’t mind taking some big shots late in the game.
Well here we are, at the one you have all been waiting for, the team MVP. I would bet that this would be the one that would elicit the most discussion among Spartan fans around the water cooler, well we were no different. In fact, we did not even have the votes to come to a consensus pick. Two players split six votes to earn co-MVP honors, with Jaren Jackson grabbing one vote to leave us in a tie.
Your co-MVP’s are Miles Bridges and Cassius Winston.
Bridges was named a unanimous first-team All-Big Ten selection by both the coaches and the media, and was also chosen as a semi-finalist for the Naismith Award for college basketball player of the year.
He led the Spartans in scoring, averaging 16.8 points per game, and was second on the team in rebounding at 6.9 boards. He also chipped in 2.8 assists and almost a block per game. He was the team’s best free throw shooter at 89.8%, a 21.3% improvement over last year. Bridges also led the team in minutes played by 80 minutes, despite sitting out an entire game back in November with an ankle injury.
It is tough to argue against Miles Bridges as the Spartans MVP, but then again...Cassius Winston had himself a pretty good year as well.
The Spartan point guard averaged 12.5 points, 6.9 assists, and 3.4 rebounds per game. He led the conference and was third in the nation in assist rate. Oh and he is the best three point shooter in the country right now at 56.5%, a mark that would set the MSU single season record by more than six percent.
Winston was the gas that made the MSU offensive engine go. When he was struggling, the Spartans struggled, when he was on, MSU often looked unstoppable.
His confidence grew as the season went on as did his team leadership qualities according to Tom Izzo.
Winston has racked up 214 assists so far this year, the seventh largest single season total in school history, and will move into fifth place on that list with four more assists. He also became the sixth player in school history to reach the 200 assist mark in a single season and with 12 more points would become only the fifth Spartan to get to 200 assists and 400 points in the same year.
So since we were unable to establish a consensus pick for MVP, it is time to do the democratic thing and give the power to you, the people. Vote in the poll below for your pick for MSU MVP and also make sure to comment and tell us why we were wrong about all the other stuff too.
Who was the MVP for Michigan State in the regular season?
This poll is closed
Jaren Jackson Jr.