The Spartans’ 2016 recruiting class has been touted as the best under head coach Tom Izzo and the group showed why late in the season. As Miles Bridges’ NBA decision looms, let’s hand out some grades for the 2016-17 season.
Miles Bridges: A
What more can you say about Bridges? Besides getting injured early in the season, he did just about everything he could to carry this team to the NCAA Tournament. He finished the season as the team’s leading scorer, averaging 16.9 points to go along with 8.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.5 blocks. He brought his A game every night and his freak athleticism gave fans a reason to watch every single game. Perhaps the most overlooked part of Bridges’ game is his ability to knock down shots from beyond the arc. At times he could get 3-point happy, but he was able to shoot 39 percent from beyond the arc this season, which was second best on the team. In a season defined by injuries, Bridges was able to lead MSU to yet another NCAA Tournament appearance and gave fans a dunk show along the way. Outside of the stats, Bridges genuinely loves MSU. That is why he’s having so much trouble with his NBA decision. Whether he stays or goes, Bridges will go down as one of the best freshman to play in the green and white.
Nick Ward: A
How Ward got left off of the Big Ten All-Freshman Team is beyond me, but like Bridges, Ward had a dominant season. Considering the circumstances, Ward did just about everything coaches and fans could’ve asked for. Injuries to Gavin Schilling and Ben Carter moved Ward into a huge role for the Spartans and he answered by becoming one of the best freshman in the Big Ten. He finished the season as the team’s second leading scorer, averaging 13.9 points to go along with 6.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks. At 6-foot-8, Ward is suited for the power forward position, but his inside game grew as the season went along and he became a consistent inside threat for the Spartans. Foul trouble did hurt his production, but heading into next season, Ward has help on the way with Schilling returning and two freshman bigs coming in. With another season of development, Ward could become one of the top big men in the Big Ten.
Cassius Winston: B-
Points wise, Winston had the worst year of the four freshman, but it would be hard to outshine the likes of Miles Bridges and Nick Ward. Winston finished the 2016-17 season averaging 6.7 points, 5.2 assists and 1.8 rebounds. Winston was by far the team’s best passer, looking like a seasoned veteran running the point. He did turn the ball over 2.2 times per game, but some of the passes he made throughout the season were just unbelievable. The biggest asset that Winston helped bring the Spartans this season was scoring from the point guard position. Tum Tum Nairn isn’t much of a shooter and teams typically chose to lay off of him, but Winston shot 38 percent from beyond the arc, forcing teams to extend their defense. This allowed players such as Nick Ward to have more space to operate in the paint. Heading into next season, Winston appears to be the team’s starting point guard. He needs to add more muscle and speed, but his shot and court vision are elite.
Joshua Langford: C+
Langford battled a hamstring injury early in the season, which hurt his freshman campaign, but down the stretch he became a very confident and consistent player on both ends of the court. Langford finished the season averaging 6.9 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.1 assists, but his play at the end of the season has to instill hope for years to come. After the injury to Eron Harris, Langford was a completely different player. Before Harris’ injury, Langford was hesitant and didn’t seem to have much confidence in his shot. After the injury, he was one of the Spartans’ best players. He was knocking down mid-range shots consistently, crashing the glass, finding open teammates in transition and playing solid defense. MSU would’ve liked to see him play that way all season, but with a good offseason, Langford could have a coming out party in the 2017-18 season.
If you would like to receive an email each time a new Michigan State football or basketball article is published, fill out our email notification form.