Monday, January 25, 2021

Preview: Michigan State basketball storylines to watch, a look at EMU

November 25, 2020
<p>Then-freshman forward Malik Hall (25) contests a shot during the game against Eastern Michigan on Dec. 21, 2019, at the Breslin Center. The Spartans defeated the Eagles, 101-48.</p>

Then-freshman forward Malik Hall (25) contests a shot during the game against Eastern Michigan on Dec. 21, 2019, at the Breslin Center. The Spartans defeated the Eagles, 101-48.

Photo by Matt Schmucker | The State News

College basketball is set to return. With college football reeling amid numerous cancellations across the power five, college hoops programs, including No. 13 Michigan State men's basketball, prepares to tip off Wednesday Nov. 25. 

Head Coach Tom Izzo returned to practice Monday after testing positive for COVID-19 on Nov. 9 and is cleared to rejoin the team before its season opener. 

The Spartans square off against Eastern Michigan at 6 p.m. on Wednesday. Last December at the Breslin, the last time the two schools met, MSU coasted to a 101-48 victory. The Eagles return two of their three leading scorers from last season. Redshirt senior forward Ty Groce averaged 11.5 points and 5.2 rebounds while senior guard Noah Morgan averaged 10 points on 2.8 rebounds. 

The Spartans, of course, lost their two leading scorers, as Cassius Winston (18.6 points and 5.9 assists) heads to the Washington Wizards and Xavier Tillman (13.7 points and 10.3 rebounds) reunites with Jaren Jackson Jr. in Memphis, Tennessee. 

That brings us to the first major storyline to monitor throughout the Spartans’ non-conference schedule. That is, the player that will emerge as MSU’s leading scorer following Winston and Tillman’s departure. 

Junior forward Aaron Henry is expected to be that guy, coming off a 10-point, 4.6 rebound-per-game campaign in 2019-20.

Keep an eye on sophomore forward Rocket Watts, though, as he commands two major storylines this preseason. Watts, who averaged 9.0 points per game including 17.8 through MSU’s last four games, and junior guard Foster Loyer are the two names in circulation for the starting point guard job. Izzo continually praises Watts’ defense though, which gives him a slight edge to start at the point.

Sixth-year senior guard Joshua Langford will garner attention as well. While he is full-go at practice, the former five-star recruit will likely see a gradual reintroduction into the rotation early on. It will be interesting to watch how Langford responds to his first in-game action since midway through the 2018-19 season. 

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