The second round of the Big Ten Tournament is in the books, but what does Michigan State basketball need to do to advance?
After an impressive win against Penn State, Michigan State basketball prepares for its next test. That test will be on Friday against the Minnesota Golden Gophers. The Golden Gophers have an overall record of 23-8 and an 11-7 Big Ten record.
Behind the Golden Gophers solid record and lock into the NCAA Tournament, they have some quality players. Starting from the top, their leading scorer, Nate Mason. The teams starting point guard averages 15.5 points per game and 5.1 assists per game. He flashes a lot of potential and has the ability to score points at ease. Earlier this year, Minnesota beat Purdue in overtime and Mason was the key factor. In that game, he had a season-high of 31 points and 11 assists.
Alongside Mason is their physical big man, Jordan Murphy. In the first meeting with the Spartans, Murphy grabbed 21 rebounds in a losing effort to the Spartans. With Murphy, he inches closer to a double-double every time he’s on the court. Lastly, keep an eye on their quality shooter, Dupree McBrayer. He is a great shooter and is averaging almost 41 percent from behind the arc and is averaging 14.2 points per game over his last five games.
What do the Spartans have to do to advance to the next round of the Big Ten Tournament?
Entering tomorrow’s game against the Golden Gophers, the Spartans have to stay crisp. Even though they look to be a lock to earn an NCAA Tournament bid, they can’t afford any slip-ups. Despite beating the Golden Gophers in both meetings during the regular season, winning the Big Ten Championship is still the Spartans’ goal.
To obtain that goal, it all starts with the Spartans’ new-formed “Big Two”. There are two freshman that are leading the Spartans and they are Miles Bridges and Nick Ward. In the opening round against Penn State, they combined for a total of 30 points, 18 rebounds and four blocks.
Bridges must find a way to have a consistent jump shot and continue to improve his play on the defensive end. As for Ward, he has to find a way to keep himself on the floor. I don’t expect these two players to play the full 40 minutes but they should be averaging close to 30 minutes for the rest of the season.
The Spartans rotation hasn’t been consistent for most of this season but if there’s anytime to get consistent, this is the time. I’d expect to see more of Joshua Langford, as he’s destined for a bigger role with his ability to shoot and drive. He won’t dominate the game or take it over but he could become the difference-maker for the Spartans and their flow into the NCAA Tournament.
The Spartans play the Golden Gophers on the Big Ten Network with a schedule tip-off at about 2:30 p.m. EST. If the Spartans beat the Golden Gophers on Friday, they’ll play the winner of the game between Michigan and Purdue.