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Surviving Michigan State’s injury tight-rope walk

With only one game left in the regular season and the Big Ten championship up for grabs, the Spartans hope to be just healthy enough to cross the finish line.

NCAA Basketball: Nebraska at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

The 2018-19 Michigan State Spartans athletics year may be one of the most injury plagued school years imaginable. Fresh off of a football season that saw one star after another miss time due to injury, the basketball team is hoping to reach the post-season without another big name getting hurt.

The Spartans will play Michigan this Saturday with the Big Ten championship on the line. But they will take the floor again without star forward Nick Ward. Wednesday, Izzo told the media that Ward had a “million-to-one” chance of playing against Michigan. This will be Ward’s fifth game missed since injuring his left hand against Ohio State.

We’ll get a better feel for how his hand feels,” Izzo said, according to MLive. “Then it just goes according to the pain and getting him back.

Ward may be the biggest name on the injury front currently, but he’s far from the only one dealing with something for Michigan State.

Izzo said Kyle Ahrens has a “99 percent” chance of playing Saturday, however the guard has been noticeably limited with a back injury even when he does play. Fortunately, fellow guard Matt McQuaid seems to have gotten over his sprained ankle. But, like a back injury, it’s impossible to guess when an ankle injury will flair up again.

Scariest of all the Michigan State injury issues is Cassius Winston’s knee tendinitis. The star point guard was seen with a heating pad on his knee during the win over Nebraska. Fortunately, Izzo was given the rare opportunity to rest Winston as the rest of the team played well enough to keep Nebraska at arm’s-length all game long. Never was there a more important game to rest Winston than against Nebraska. With the season finale looming and post-season coming so quickly, a healthy Winston is the most important feature to a Michigan State run in March.

Of course, all of this comes in addition to the season-ending injury to junior Joshua Langford.

It’s with all of those issues that Michigan State enters Saturday. This lineup, without Ward or Langford, has already beaten Michigan once. Doing so took the best performance of Winston’s career, however. There is always a chance that Winston could play at that same level, but at what cost? If Winston maxes out once again, how much of him will be left for the Big Ten Tournament, and even more importantly, the NCAA Tournament?

Best-case scenario, the Spartans win Saturday without any further injuries. They then get Ward back, and everyone else gets (and stays) healthy. This isn’t a stretch, and may be the most likely outcome. However, after a year filled with this many injuries, getting off the tight-rope feels a long way off. So for now, just don’t look down.