The level of talent on display on Wednesday night just got a little more impressive.
Down in the SEC, the South Carolina Gamecocks announced that star senior Sindarius Thornwell would return from his suspension on Wednesday against the Georgia Bulldogs in their conference opener.
Then, shortly thereafter, more good news was released, this time surrounding the Michigan State Spartans.
After missing the last seven games due to an ankle injury, freshman sensation Miles Bridges is set to make his long-awaited return to the Spartans’ lineup on Wednesday night against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, according to several reports.
Bridges last appeared in a game on November 29th, a 78-69 loss to the Duke Blue Devils as a part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Before Bridges went down with the injury, the freshman out of nearby Flint, MI was a bright spot in an otherwise dreary start to the season for the mighty Spartans. The 6’7” forward had scored in double figures on seven occasions, and had recorded a pair of double-doubles.
He is still the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, averaging 16.6 points and 8.8 rebounds per contest over his eight games.
At the time of his injury, the Spartans were sitting at 4-4 on the year, with all four of their losses coming at the hands of nationally-ranked opponents.
In the seven games he missed, the Spartans went a combined 6-1, with their only loss coming at the hands of the Northeastern Huskies in East Lansing, 81-73.
Over the past two games, the Spartans have used the starting lineup of Cassius Winston, Josh Langford, Nick Ward, Matt Van Dyk, and Matt McQuaid. Both of those games resulted in wins for the green and white, pushing their record to 10-5 on the year, and 2-0 in Big Ten play.
In Bridges’ absence, Ward has been the go-to guy for the Spartans in the front court. He scored in double-figures in all seven games, and recorded a pair of double-doubles over that stretch. The 6’8” forward averaged 17.1 points and 8.3 rebounds per game since Bridges went down with the ankle injury.
With Bridges coming back into the mix, it will be interesting to see how he fits into the lineup. On paper, the easy transition would be to replace Van Dyk with Bridges in the starting lineup, but it’s tough to disrupt the chemistry that the five players have developed over the past two contests.
The return of Bridges is a big boost for a Spartans team who seem to be finding their groove as conference play rolls along. Alvin Ellis III has provided a big spark off the bench over the past two games, and the same can be said for Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn.
However Tom Izzo plans to use Bridges on Wednesday night in his return, the Spartans are once again looking like a top team in the Big Ten Conference.
Wednesday night’s game will tip off at 7pm EST inside the Breslin Center in East Lansing, MI.
– T. Bennett