Date: February 23rd - 6:00pm - East Lansing, Michigan - Jack Breslin Center
2016-17 Record: 16-11 (8-6 Big Ten)
Last Meeting: Michigan State 72 Nebraska 61
Michigan State is not having a usual Michigan State season. In past years we would be seeing them at the top of the conference, dancing in and out of the top ten, and predicting how deep they would go in the Tournament. Coach Izzo would be preparing his team for the post season and writing another successful story in the Michigan State basketball history books.
Not this year. The one year that they could very well be the top team in the conference with everyone else playing below their usual levels. Michigan State is having a down year.
At one point things were looking good for the Spartans before injuries and a fairly tough non conference schedule started changing their post season plans. Right now, they are quite possibly becoming a bubble team at best for the NCAA Tournament. Their upcoming schedule isn’t exactly giving them any promise either. After Nebraska they have Wisconsin, Illinois, and Maryland to end the regular season. All teams who are just as talented, healthier, and gunning well for the post season.
It’s not like they were planning on having a down year. Yes, they lost Denzel Valentine, Bryn Forbes, and Matt Costello but had plenty of returning talent to make a decent run. This, of course, was all before the “Great Michigan State Injury Bug of 2016-17” hit.
I joke, but there is some significance to it.
It all started with a knee injury to senior Ben Carder in the post season that has taken him out for the year. Next was senior Gavin Schilling with another season ending knee injury. This was right before the season started.
In early December Freshman Miles Bridges went down for seven games with an ankle injury. This was opportune as he was out during the easier part of their schedule. Unlike the previous players he has come back to full strength.
I mention Matt McQuaid only because he missed one game due to a head injury in practice. His play has been spotty all year for the Spartans so little was missed in their win over Tennessee Tech.
Now this leaves us with star guard Eron Harris. Harris went down with a knee injury in their loss to Purdue this past Saturday. He will be having surgery and out for the season. This is huge as Harris has been one of their top scorers all season and was deadly outside the arch with 43 3-pointers on the season. He has been a constant on the court for the Spartans after transferring from West Virginia two years ago. A tough ending to a very talented senior.
With that information given, let’s move on to their schedule since we last saw them.
Since they beat Nebraska on February 2nd they’ve lost to in state rival Michigan. Beat Iowa and Ohio state, something that would normally be a big deal but both of these teams are seeing down years too. To finish this four game crusade they were soundly beat by #16 Purdue this last Saturday 80 to 63.
As I’ve stated on this site a few times this year, it will be interesting to see how this game goes in East Lansing. This is probably the last game of the regular season that the Spartans will be favored in. Many are predicting the Spartans as a #10 seed in the tournament right now. If they lose to the Huskers and drop one or two others then it could be a tough hill to climb to get off the bubble. If they don’t then it could mean that this is the first time since 1997 that they haven’t made the dance.