Michigan State Basketball: Miles Bridges set to return Wednesday

Michigan State basketball’s top freshman and best player Miles Bridges is set to return on Wednesday.

Between an arduous early schedule and young players adjusting to their respective roles, Michigan State got off to a slow start to begin the 2016-17 season. They suffered four losses (Arizona, Kentucky, Baylor and Duke) and racked up just one quality win (Wichita State).

Then the Spartans suffered their worst news yet, as Miles Bridges, their best player, went down with an ankle injury. It was one thing to lose their two veteran big men, Ben Carter and Gavin Schilling in the offseason, but to lose the centerpiece of their team was the most difficult task yet.

Well, the Spartans have survived. Michigan State will be getting their five-star freshman forward back on Wednesday night against Rutgers. Bridges will not start, but he will come off the bench with an expected minutes limit.

Everyone must temper their expectations with Bridges, as he is unlikely to have a massive impact from the get-go. Remember, the freshman has missed seven games due to an injury and spent most of that time in a walking boot. Tom Izzo said Bridges is in shape, but being in shape and being in “game shape” is a completely different story.

“The big thing with him is don’t let it get to fatigue and thank God the way he killed himself for the last three and half weeks, on the bike he is in decent shape,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “Our job is to try and get him some minutes if everything goes as well tonight and tomorrow, then we can see if we can build on that.”

While Bridges’ return on Wednesday is a big deal for the Spartans, it’s clear that he is unlikely to have a major role against the Scarlet Knights. The Spartans want to be cautious with their best player because the number one goal for Michigan State is to compete in March.

Also, Michigan State doesn’t exactly have a gauntlet coming up as they host Rutgers, Penn State and Minnesota before traveling to Ohio State and Indiana. This is the perfect time to ease Bridges back into action.

And beyond that, the team has been awfully competitive without Bridges in the lineup. The Spartans went 6-1 (their lone loss was to Northeastern), as they defeated Minnesota on the road, Oakland and Northwestern. Cassius Winston has become more mature at the point guard position and Nick Ward has suddenly molded into a force on the block. Add in the fact that Izzo is doing the coaching, and the Spartans can afford to let Bridges slowly work back to the point where he is 100 percent comfortable on that ankle.

Michigan State’s stock is rising. The hefty traveling is in the rearview mirror and the tough early games have turned into valuable experience. The young players are becoming assets and the Spartans now have their best player back in the fold. Are we in for another classic Michigan State run in March?

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