Bridges iffy as No. 4 Michigan State faces DePaul (Nov 23, 2017)
No. 4 Michigan State might not have its best player for the PK80 college basketball tournament.
Star sophomore forward Miles Bridges sustained a left ankle sprain while driving to the basket in the team's 93-71 win over Stony Brook on Sunday. The sprain isn't considered serious, but the Spartans will take a cautious approach at this stage of the season.
Michigan State faces DePaul in the opening round of the 16-team, four-day event on Thursday in Portland, Ore.
"He's tough enough where if he's healthy, he'll go," coach Tom Izzo said of Bridges, who missed seven games last season with a similar injury. "If he's not healthy or there's any chance (of making it worse), of course, we're holding him back."
The Spartans (2-1) might have enough talent to win the tournament without Bridges, who is averaging 19.7 points and 7.0 rebounds. The sophomore backcourt of Joshua Langford (13.7 points per game) and Cassius Winston (9.3 ppg, 8.3 assists per game) excelled against Stony Brook and could take an expanded offensive role if Bridges misses any time.
Prized freshman center Jaren Jackson Jr. will try to bounce back from a forgettable outing in which he fouled out after 14 scoreless minutes.
"He didn't even really play," Izzo said. "He was in the game 14 minutes, but eight of those minutes he was playing not to foul."
Michigan State has some things to clean up in order to win the tournament, regardless of Bridges' status. The Spartans allowed 25 offensive rebounds to No. 1 Duke in an 88-81 loss last week.
Stony Brook subsequently dented Michigan State's defense by making 13 3-pointers, connecting on half of its attempts.
"We've got to keep our focus on 100 percent at all times," Winston said. "I think that's a little bit where we struggle with, just focusing in. When we focus, when everybody's locked in, we're a hell of a team. But once some players lose focus, then we kind of just dwindle down a little bit."
The Blue Demons (1-2) have an injury concern regarding one of their mainstays. Sophomore guard Devin Gage sustained an ankle sprain in their 82-73 loss to Illinois on Friday.
DePaul has won just five Big East games over the past two seasons. Coach Dave Leitao views the PK80 tournament as a chance to show his program is on the upswing.
"My first reaction was 'Oh boy' because the tournament is filled with the who's who of college basketball, at least from a Nike perspective," Leitao said in a radio interview with Chicago's 670-AM The Score.
"As I took a deep breath, I realized it's very prestigious. So being invited to something like that is really a prestigious thing. For the guys, an experience that you can't duplicate. What they wanted to do was make this (tournament) the creme de la creme. So being a part of that is a really special thing."
A pair of junior swingmen lead the Blue Demons in scoring -- Max Strus (13.7 ppg, 5.0 rpg) and Eli Cain (11.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg).
DePaul lost to a ranked team, Notre Dame, and defeated Delaware State in its other games.
"These first three games have not been easy," Leitao said. "The next three games won't be easy as well, starting with Thursday night's game. ... I'm anxious to go up against one of the best coaches college basketball has ever seen and one of the true great programs that we have. Our guys, I believe, will be very excited to play, and we're hoping to have major success."