Michigan State Basketball: Reviewing Spartans’ 2018-19 regular season

ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN - FEBRUARY 24: Cassius Winston #5 and Kenny Goins #25 of the Michigan State Spartans react after a 77-70 win over the Michigan Wolverines at Crisler Arena on February 24, 2019 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN - FEBRUARY 24: Cassius Winston #5 and Kenny Goins #25 of the Michigan State Spartans react after a 77-70 win over the Michigan Wolverines at Crisler Arena on February 24, 2019 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

What Michigan State basketball lost throughout the season and what the Spartans can do better in the 2019 NCAA Tournament.

Michigan State had a terrific year and it will be on its way back to the Big Dance in a couple days because of it.

The Spartans finished out the regular season with a win at home against in-state rival Michigan. This gave the Spartans another Quadrant 1 win to boost their resume even more. The Spartans then won the Big Ten Tournament and finished 28-6 and will have a No. 2 seed in the tournament.

Let’s take a journey through this season for the Spartans and look at some of the highlights and some of the disappointments.

Michigan State started off the season with a tough matchup against the Kansas Jayhawks who, at the time, were ranked No. 1. These Spartans fought valiantly but they ended up short losing this game 92-87 on a neutral court. Losing by five to the No. 1 team in the country in the first game after losing the two lottery pick starters from the year before isn’t terrible. They could have had a chance to win the game had they not turned the ball over 18 times through the game and slowed the Jayhawks down just a little bit.

Overall this was not a bad loss for these kids and they did a lot of learning and growing up after this one.

The Spartans went on to win five games in a row, including a rout against then-No.17 UCLA. However, just a few days later they traveled to Louisville in what should have been a hard0fought win however, they gave a lackluster performance and ended up losing in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. This infuriated Tom Izzo and Co. and they did something because the Spartans went out and gave their all in dominate performances for the next 13 games.

They beat Iowa by 22 points and a few weeks later they went to Columbus to play the Buckeyes and beat them by nine points. In the game against Ohio State, Kaleb Wesson scored 25 but he had to fight for all of them — he didn’t get easy buckets.

Along with that, though Wesson was able to score, he was not getting any help from his teammates because of lockdown defense from the Spartans.

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Then, just a few days later, the Spartans were able to play at home but they had to face Carsen Edwards and Co. That was a tough back-to-back game schedule. Luckily, though, Matt McQuaid was able to  prove why he is considered one of the Big Ten’s best defenders. He was in Edwards’ face all game long. This forced have a horrific shooting night and only shot 3-for-16 with only 11 points. This helped the Spartans come away with a convincing 77-59 win over the Boilermakers.

They were able to beat both Maryland and Iowa again before things started going down hill.

Everything seemed easy as the Spartans won 13 games in a row, starting 7-0 in conference play. However, they won half of these games without star junior guard Josh Langford who went down with an ankle injury halfway through the Dec. 29 game against Northern Illinois. Players stepped up and took on the role of Langford so these Spartans could continue to strive.

There was a slight bump in the road in this season, though, other than Langford getting injured.

After a fantastic 7-0 start, Michigan State went on to lose three in a row. They lost at Purdue, at home against Indiana and against at Illinois.

The Purdue loss was understandable. Shutting down Edwards and Co. one time is tough but shutting the rest of his teammates down, too, is unthinkable. They came back home to East Lansing to take on the Hoosiers, losing in front of a home crowd against a mediocre Indiana team was not expected as they just played poorly.

To make matters worse they picked up their worst loss of their season in their next game against Illinois. Yes, they were away but this is not one they should have lost. Turnovers and sloppy play kept the Fighting Illini in the game and they just wanted to win it more than the Spartans.

However, this team bounced back from this three-game skid and continued on to finish the season strong.

They traveled to Wisconsin and beat them in their place and they also traveled to Ann Arbor to beat their biggest rival at their own place as well. Winston was able to get past the Zavier Simpson road block and have a huge game to lift the Spartans ahead of the Wolverines. They beat the Wolverines without one of their top scorers, Nick Ward who suffered a hairline fracture to his left hand during the game against Ohio State.

So not only did the Spartans lose one of their top scorers throughout the year, they lost two of them.

That is very impressive to finish the season the way they did without having two of their star players for at least a month. Yes, they did get swept by Indiana this year, losing their second matchup a few days after playing and beating Michigan, but they rebounded and won their last two games of the season to capture a Big Ten title — one of them being Michigan for the second time.

What does this mean?

This means that Michigan State had 13 Quadrant 1 wins this year and their worst loss was a Quadrant 2 to Illinois. The Spartans went 15-1 at home only losing to Indiana. They were also 8-4 on the road with wins over Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa.

They had a strong argument to get to the one-line if they won the Big Ten Tournament, but the committee thought otherwise. They had enough quality wins but there are some other teams like Duke, North Carolina and Virginia who had slightly better resumes.

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This team will ride on the play of Cassius. These Spartans are relying on him heavily to produce for their team — he is the heart and soul, the leader of the pack. If Winston is playing great ball, expect a deep tournament run for these Michigan State Spartans.