MSU expects to have full complement of players for game at Northwestern

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

There are few sure things, and when it comes to playing games in college basketball these days, things are far from certain.

But as of Saturday afternoon, No. 10 Michigan State was in place to take on Northwestern at 2 p.m. on Sunday in a return to Big Ten action, and the Spartans were expecting to do so at full strength. That wasn’t the case the last time the Spartans played on Dec. 29 when they were without Marcus Bingham Jr., Max Christie and Pierre Brooks because of positive COVID tests in a home win over High Point.

Marcus Bingham Jr. is expected to return to action at Northwestern.

Late this week, though, coach Tom Izzo said all three should be back to take on the Wildcats and, to that point, no other players had been affected.

“No other issues so far,” Izzo said. “As you know, it’s a day-to-day thing, but no other issues and it looks like they’ll all be back and, I think, at least get one-and-a-half practices in. So that’ll be good.”

While Michigan State (11-2, 2-0 Big Ten) has yet to have a game affected by COVID, Northwestern had a scheduled game on Thursday with Prairie View A&M called off.

It wasn’t announced which team had the problem, but Izzo said he spoke with Northwestern coach Chris Collins and Collins was confident Sunday’s game would be played.

“Again, just like us, something could happen,” Izzo said. “It’s that crazy out there. But I feel comfortable both of us will be ready to go and ready to play.”

When Michigan State does get back on the court, it will be just the end of a long layoff that saw the Spartans play just twice since Dec. 11.

It does signify a jump back into a regular schedule as it’s all Big Ten games from here as Michigan State hosts Nebraska on Wednesday and travels to Michigan on Saturday.

“I’m really looking forward to that,” Izzo said of getting back into the swing of the season. “We played two games since the 11th and that is a little strange, to be honest with you. And yet we didn’t get a lot of practice time in there, which I’ve usually relished during this period of time. We didn’t get that either because of the situation, both finals, Christmas break, and then coming back and having COVID, having seven, eight players because we had a couple travel issues, not just COVID.

“So it is gonna be nice to get back into the routine.”

Twitter: @mattcharboneau

No. 10 Michigan State at Northwestern

►Tip-off: 2 p.m., Sunday, Welsh-Ryan Arena, Evanston, Ill.

►TV/radio: Big Ten Network/WJR 760

►Records: Michigan State 11-2, 2-0 Big Ten; Northwestern 8-2, 1-0

►Outlook: Northwestern senior forward Pete Nance is one of four players scoring in double figures and ranks 10th in the Big Ten in scoring at 16.3 points a game while grabbing eight rebounds a game. … The Wildcats rank fourth in the Big Ten in scoring at 79 points a game and lead the conference in scoring defense, allowing 60.8 per game.