COLUMN: MSU sophomore class is missing
Sorting the game of basketball out is like placing a puzzle together. You find your four corners first, then build your outside foundation before finally sorting out the detailed pieces.
Through the first 10 games of MSU men's basketball, head coach Tom Izzo has found two of his corner pieces in freshman forward Miles Bridges and freshman guard Cassius Winston.
Although Izzo might have wanted senior forward Gavin Schilling as a corner piece, his injury gave rise, like a phoenix, to freshman forward Nick Ward. While redshirt-sophomore Kenny Goins still starts, he looks merely as a placeholder until Ward can get in enough shape to play longer.
The last corner piece is a little harder to find. Whether fifth-year senior Eron Harris steps up to claim it, or freshman guard Joshua Langford, Izzo will figure this out while Bridges remains sidelined.
As Izzo begins sliding it all together, he will notice a large amount of pieces missing: his sophomore class.
With MSU's injury bug, sophomores have been the biggest beneficiaries. Schilling left the starting job open for Goins, who has neglected to show his mental awareness skills defensively nor has he really owned the glass in the past seven games. Constantly he is finding himself on the bench in foul trouble, fouling out in two games already this season. Although slightly undersized for the position he is being asked to play, he hasn't played as well as he needs to be in order for this team to succeed.
Goins will be critical for MSU through the slug of the Big Ten slate. While Ward continues to get his conditioning up, he and Goins are the only two big men Izzo will use going forward.
Sophomore guard Matt McQuaid still hasn't found his touch from downtown. Although his 38.3 percent from the 3-point line doesn't look terrible, he hasn't been able to string multiple together. Part of the reason why there was a rise of McQuaid a season ago was his ability to knock down threes in times of changing momentum. While everyone wants him to shoot, he is passing it away more.
Izzo said McQuaid is still lagging behind because of his double sports hernia surgery in the summer. While McQuaid himself said he feels back to normal, his confidence looks severely damaged.
The roles McQuaid and Goins will play for the Spartans this season will provide the much needed outside frame in order to succeed.
Sophomore forward Kyle Ahrens has the least amount of expectations. He can get a little bit of a pass, yet this extra playing time during the Bridges injury will see how high his production level is. So far, his offense and defense have been poor.
Izzo said he wants to be able to get a solid rotation going of players for the remainder of the season, that way players will be able to gain more playing experience with the same guys. This idea of the same guys playing with each other more have greatly improved guys like Winston. His pairing with Lourawls "Tum Tum" Nairn Jr. has greatly sped up his growing process.
Guys like Ahrens and senior guard Alvin Ellis III should be using this time left by Bridges to state their case to Izzo for the — what seems to be — an eight-man rotation in the near future.
Although Izzo has had to use 10 or more guys in each game, this has only worsened their consistency problem.
As of now, Izzo's future eight man rotation will be: Bridges, Nairn, Winston, Langford, Ward, Harris, McQuaid and Goins.