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Joshua Langford Must Step Up in NCAA Tournament

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Michigan State v Kansas Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The 2018 NCAA Tournament field is set, and the Michigan State Spartans will take on the Bucknell Bison in a 3-seed vs. 14-seed matchup on Friday night at Little Caesar’s Arena in Detroit.

As I stated yesterday, I expect Cassius Winston to be the driving force behind a potential Spartans tournament run. I also expect Miles Bridges to finally do Miles Bridges-type things, and take over the games.

I am hopeful that Nick Ward will play more efficiently and stay out of foul trouble. I am hopeful that Jaren Jackson Jr. will continue to be a defensive dynamo and matchup nightmare for opposing teams. I also expect Matt McQuaid and the bench players to play key roles.

But there is one player I am worried about, and his name is Joshua Langford. Langford has seemingly disappeared from the lineup as of late. He has really struggled, which in turn has made the Spartans less threatening on offense. Langford has failed to score double digit points in six of the past seven games.

I am calling Langford out as a player who must step up if the Spartans have any hopes at another national title — not because I expect him to read this, not because I am being harsh, but because I know how talented he is and what his all-around game consists of.

Here are Langford’s stat lines for the past five games:

3/3 vs. Michigan: 2 points, 1-8 field goals (.125 percent), 0-3 3-point field goals, 7 rebounds, zero assists
3/2 vs. Wisconsin: 4 points, 2-6 field goals (.333 percent), 0-1 3-point field goals, 4 rebounds, zero assists
2/25 vs. Wisconsin: 5 points, 2-3 field goals (.667 percent), 1-1 3-point field goals, 1 rebound, zero assists
2/20 vs. Illinois: 16 points, 5-11 field goals (.455 percent), 3-4 3-point field goals, 3 rebounds, 5 assists
2/17 vs. Northwestern: 8 points, 3-10 field goals (.300 percent), 2-4 3-point field goals, 4 rebounds, 5 assists

In that five game stretch, Langford has accumulated 35 points (with an outlier of 16 points), 10 assists (accumulated in two games), and 19 rebounds. That breaks down to an average of 7.0 points per game, 2.0 assists per game, 3.8 rebounds per game and a field goal percentage of .376 in that time frame.

The Spartans are nearly unstoppable when Langford is scoring. MSU is 10-1 when its starting shooting guard scores at least 15 points, with the lone loss coming at Ohio State. The record goes up to 17-1 when Langford scores at least 10 points. Michigan State is also 10-0 when Langford has at least three assists.

Langford scored less than 10 points in three of the four Michigan State losses, and only had one assist in those four games combined, putting up a goose egg in three of the four games. Now, Langford does not need to be a facilitator, but obviously Langford is seeing the floor better when his scoring output is higher, accumulating almost a third of his season assist total in the games where he has scored 15 points or more.

The bottom line is that Langford has to step up and contribute if the Spartans want to make a run.