Michigan State has the No. 2-ranked men’s basketball team in the country, and it’ll be led by the top-ranked player in the nation.
That’s according to CBS Sports, which on Thursday came out with its top 101 players for the upcoming season.
MSU sophomore Miles Bridges, who opted against the NBA in favor of returning to East Lansing, leads the list. He’s one of four Spartans on the list, joined by sophomore center Nick Ward (No. 41), freshman forward Jaren Jackson Jr. (No. 47) and sophomore point guard Cassius Winston (No. 85).
That group, led by Bridges, could mean big things are in store for the Spartans.
“Bridges is the first power-conference player in more than two decades to average at least 16 points, eight rebounds and two assists and then return for his sophomore season,” Gary Parrish of CBS Sports writes. “He’s an absolute monster who should lead Michigan State to a Big Ten title and, possibly, the Final Four.”
Ward was thrust into a larger role last season because of injuries to the MSU frontcourt. That should pay off this season, writes Reid Forgrave.
“Michigan State’s injury-riddled season last year will pay huge dividends this year because so much of the burden was thrown on first-year players like Ward, Miles Bridges and Cassius Winston,” Forgrave writes. “Ward is a tough, relentless presence near the rim, one of the top rebounders in the game. A more mature Ward will pay dividends for Tom Izzo this year.”
Jackson, meanwhile, is one of two highly touted recruits added to the MSU mix. Forgrave calls him “a potential lottery pick in June, but his focus will be on getting this insanely talented Michigan State team deep into March.”
Forgrave calls Winston a key to the Spartans’ Final Four hopes.
“The Detroit product is the perfect collegiate point guard for Izzo,” he writes. “A guy who has excellent court vision and handle and with a solid shot and shot-making abilities. He is the type of four-year player who Izzo can construct a roster around for a couple more years. If Michigan State makes a Final Four, it’ll be because Winston stepped up.”
Michigan wasn’t represented in the rankings, but Pontiac native and former Bloomfield Hills High standout Yante Maten, checks in at No. 22 as a senior at Georgia.
“Maten scored at least 30 points three different times last season,” Parrish writes. “He’s been mostly overshadowed by better NBA prospects in the SEC. But the 6-8 forward has averaged at least 16.5 points and 6.8 rebounds each of the past two seasons.”