Michigan State basketball: Gabe Brown is key piece to 2020-21 title puzzle

Gabe Brown, Michigan State basketball (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
Gabe Brown, Michigan State basketball (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images) /

Despite a poor finish to his sophomore season, Gabe Brown is going to be a key piece to Michigan State basketball’s potential 2020-21 title run.

The 2019-20 season was supposed to be Gabe Brown’s time to shine. He was coming off a Final Four run as a freshman and included in that trip to the national semifinal was a breakout game against LSU in the Sweet 16. He just scratched the surface in his first season.

It’s been well-documented that Brown is a hard worker and videos of him in the gym getting shots up for hours have been posted all over social media.

Everything seemed to be going well for him during his sophomore season as that hard work he put in during the offseason was paying off, but then February rolled around and he went down with an illness. He played just three minutes against Wisconsin on Feb. 1 in a tough one-point loss and it was because he was under the weather.

A few days later, he played 25 minutes and scored seven points on 3-of-4 shooting, but it was all downhill from there. He just didn’t look like himself and Michigan State struggled at times to find a consistent scorer and deep threat off the bench.

After that Penn State game, he was 10-for-30 shooting from the floor and 5-for-18 from deep. He actually didn’t make a single 3-pointer in any of the final four games of the season and following the Penn State loss, he made a 3-pointer (five, actually) in just one of eight games.

But heading into the 2020-21 season, he is more important than ever for Michigan State.

Michigan State basketball needs that scoring threat

Cassius Winston is gone, Xavier Tillman may very well follow and the same goes for Aaron Henry. Josh Langford is likely back for one final go and Rocket Watts is soaring to the top of the Big Ten as a potentially elite scorer. Joey Hauser, too, will be a strong option, Malik Hall will be solid and Marcus Bingham Jr. is hoping for his rise to stardom in 2020-21 as well.

That leaves Gabe as the first guy off the bench and a real candidate for Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year — an award Tillman won in 2018-19.

Not only is it possible, but that’s something that Michigan State will need to happen. If Henry and Tillman both return and Karim Mane commits, there’s a good chance Langford comes off the bench with Brown. If that’s the case, there will be a heated battle for Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year, but the more likely scenario is Langford starts with no Mane commitment.

Brown coming off the bench to play like the guy who started the 2019-20 season would be big, but the Spartans need him to do more than hit the occasional three; he needs to be the leader off the bench and spark the lineup with 8-10 points per game, showcasing his ability to put the ball on the floor and finish at the rim just as much as his shooting touch.

Michigan State will have plenty of depth in 2020-21, especially in the post, but to be successful and make a deep run, Gabe has to be the type of player everyone expected heading into his sophomore year.

It’s Gabe’s time to shine and if he does, this team goes from good to elite.

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