ESPN: MSU hoops on way up; UM in limbo

The Detroit News

The state’s biggest basketball programs — Michigan State and Michigan — have seen their offseasons shaped by NBA draft.

ESPN took stock Tuesday of college basketball teams that have improved since the national title game last month, which are in turmoil, and which must simply wait.

The Spartans landed in the first category, and the Wolverines are in the last.

MSU sophomore Miles Bridges chose to stay for another season in East Lansing, catapulting the Spartans firmly into Big Ten title contention — at minimum — and even landing at the top of some preseason rankings.

“This past season, (Bridges) averaged 16.9 PPG and 8.3 RPG,” ESPN’s Myron Medcalf wrote. “The 6-foot-7 forward also made 39 percent of his 3-pointers and 55 percent of his shots inside the arc. Those money-making numbers would lead to a one-and-done experience for most freshmen. Last month, however, Bridges told the crowd gathered in East Lansing that he will return. ... With five-star standout Jaren Jackson in the mix and a young Nick Ward-backed nucleus returning, Tom Izzo’s program looks top-10 good right now.”

Michigan, meanwhile, is awaiting decisions from two key cogs in last season’s spirited postseason run, which included a Big Ten tournament title, and an appearance in the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet Sixteen. Forwards Moritz Wagner and D.J. Wilson are testing the NBA draft waters, which includes this weeks’ NBA combine in Chicago.

“(Coach) John Beilein’s reputation as the nation’s most underrated talent developer persists as Moritz Wagner and D.J. Wilson weigh their futures at the 2017 NBA draft combine this week,” Medcalf wrote. “Both entered the draft without representation, so they can return to Ann Arbor if they choose. But there’s also a chance that NBA execs’ growing interest in both players will continue and the duo will leave Chicago with first-round guarantees.

“It’s difficult to assess the Wolverines until we know where Wilson and Wagner stand after this week.”