East Lansing — As Michigan State continues to wait for Selection Sunday, the awards from the regular season continue to roll in for the Spartans, who finished the regular season with 28 wins and captured the Big Ten championship.
On Wednesday, sophomore Miles Bridges was named one of five finalists for the Julius Erving Small Forward of the Year Award, handed out by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. He’s joined by Kelan Martin of Butler, Keita Bates-Diop of Ohio State, Mikal Bridges of Villanova, and Trevon Bluiett of Xavier.
It is one of several honors this week for Bridges, who is one of 15 players selected to the national ballot for the John R. Wooden Award. He was also named a second team All-American by The Sporting News and USA Today on Monday and was selected to the All-District V team on Tuesday by the National Association of Basketball Coaches.
A unanimous All-Big Ten First Team selection this season, Bridges leads Michigan State in scoring with 16.9 points per game, is second on the team with 6.9 rebounds and third with 2.8 assists per game. He ranks sixth in the Big Ten in scoring, 11th in rebounding and third in free-throw percentage (88.3 percent).
Bridges, who became the 49th player in Michigan State history to pass the 1,000-point mark when he hit a 3-pointer in the first half of their Big Ten tournament semifinal against Michigan on Saturday, was also named first-team All-Big Ten by the Associated Press. Sophomore Cassius Winston was named to the second team while freshman Jaren Jackson Jr. was named Newcomer of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year.
Up next is the NCAA Tournament after their semifinal exit in the conference tournament. Michigan State students are on break this week and the Spartans spent Tuesday in Chicago taking in “Hamilton.” Afterward, the team went backstage, where they met Jonathan Kirkland, a cast member and Michigan State graduate.
Once back in town, preparation begins for the first-round NCAA game, whenever and wherever that might be.
How the selection committee views the Spartans has been debated heavily, and with a few days before the field is announced, that debate will continue. Michigan State has an impressive record (29-4) but is lacking in top-rated victories with just three in Quadrant 1.
However, they have no bad losses and they’re hoping the committee takes into consideration the injury to Notre Dame’s Bonzie Colson. One of the top players in the nation has been hurt most of the season, but not early, specifically when the Irish and Spartans squared off in a top-five battle in late November.
“There are many teams that have had injuries and players that are either not going to be available or players that are available that haven’t been for a while,” committee chairman Bruce Rasmussen said Wednesday. “Clearly the Bonzie Colson situation is unique from my five years on the committee. It will be a discussion item. Notre Dame has an opportunity, they still have games yet to play. We have seen Notre Dame with Bonzie Colson, we’ve seen them without. It certainly will be a discussion item.”
Michigan State won that game against Notre Dame in late November, but now the metrics don’t look at it like it’s a big win after Colson’s absence hindered the Irish all season. Add the quick exit in the conference tournament and there’s concern the committee won’t look fondly on Michigan State.
“Certainly, we use the phrase ‘full body of work,’ ” Rasmussen said. “We look at every game as being as important as any of the others. However, I think it’s human nature that committee members will look at how a team is doing here coming down the stretch. It may have an impact on seeding. I think every committee member looks at it a little bit differently.
“You look at the availability of players, you look at the quality of the competition. I don’t think you can just look at a won-loss record. You have to look at specifics.”
In the latest brackets, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has Michigan State a No. 3-seed starting in Nashville while Jerry Palm of CBS Sports has MSU as a 2-seed opening in Detroit.