Portland, Ore. — As Michigan State prepared to open the PK80 Invitational on Thursday night against DePaul, the biggest question was whether Miles Bridges would be available.
That was answered when coach Tom Izzo said on his pregame show that Bridges would not play.
“He's made a lot of great progress, but not enough that I'll play him tonight,” Izzo said. “And that's concerning.”
The sophomore standout injured his left ankle in Sunday’s victory over Stony Brook and did not practice the following day, sitting out with his left foot in a walking boot as the Spartans went through a light workout at Breslin Center.
The team arrived in Portland on Tuesday night and went through a practice on Wednesday, at which point Izzo told ESPN the chances of Bridges playing weren’t good. That status became official less than an hour before the 11:30 p.m. tip-off on Thursday in the final game of the Victory Bracket.
No. 4 Michigan State would play either Connecticut or Oregon on Friday. The Huskies and Ducks were scheduled to play 9 p.m., just ahead of the Spartans and the Blue Demons.
In three games this season, Bridges is averaging 19.7 points and seven rebounds a game. His potential absence is compounded by the fact junior Kenny Goins remains out with a knee injury and junior Kyle Ahrens is recovering from a foot injury that could keep him out the rest of the season.
Without Bridges, Izzo said he planned to start Joshua Langford in his spot with Matt McQuaid moving into Langford’s spot at shooting guard. It could also lead to some meaningful minutes for former walk-on Conner George.
What Izzo won’t do is push Bridges to come back too quickly. He didn’t last season when Bridges missed seven games with an injury to the same left ankle, with Michigan State going 6-1 in that stretch. There’s a chance, with an off day scheduled for Saturday, that Bridges could be back Sunday for a potential matchup with No. 9 North Carolina. However, Izzo won’t let Bridges play when he shouldn’t.
“That won’t happen,” Izzo said this week. “I know him well enough and I know how he moves and I know what our trainers will say, as we did last year. We went an extra week with him last year just because of his future, partially, and because of our future. We don’t need him to sustain (further) injury.
“He’s tough enough where if he’s healthy he’ll go. If he’s not healthy or there’s any chance, of course, we’re holding him back.”
Michigan State joined the other teams in the tournament at Nike headquarters on Wednesday night as they honored Nike founder Phil Knight, for whom the tournament was created. All 16 men’s teams were there as were four women’s teams, including Michigan State, Connecticut, Oklahoma and Oregon. Those teams will play on Saturday at Matthew Knight Arena on the campus of Oregon in Eugene. Michigan State will take on UConn while Oklahoma will face Oregon.
“I couldn’t be more excited to play in this tournament,” Izzo said. “This was something that started out as a ho-hum deal and you saw what’s happened and the way it’s all gone. It’s gonna be a historic night for Phil, to get that many teams together in one spot is pretty awesome. For (Michigan State athletic director) Mark Hollis to be very involved with it, who would have thunk. Anything that happens he’s involved with.
“It’s an honor and a privilege to go out and play in this tournament.”