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‘BTPowerhouse 25’ - #1 Miles Bridges

BTPowerhouse's staff counts down the best players in the Big Ten heading into the 2017-’18 season.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

In the months leading up to the 2017-’18 college basketball season, BTPowerhouse will be releasing a new series called the 'BTPowerhouse 25,' which features the Top 25 players in the Big Ten as voted by members of the staff. All players set to be on Big Ten rosters for next season were eligible during the staff vote with their top selection receiving 25 points and their 25th and final selection receiving 1 point.

Today's edition will take a brief look at Miles Bridges of Michigan State, who takes our top spot at No. 1 in the rankings. The decision by Bridges to return for his sophomore season instantly turned Michigan State into the hands down favorites in the Big Ten, as well as a trendy pick to win the National Championship.

'BTPowerhouse 25' - #1 Miles Bridges:

  • Eligibility: Sophomore
  • Career Totals: 28 games, 895 minutes, 473 points, 232 rebounds, 58 assists
  • 2016-17 Averages: 32.0 min, 16.9 pts, 8.3 rebs, 2.1 asts, 1.5 blks, 0.7 stls
  • Positional Role: Shooting Guard/Small Forward

At this point last year, no one figured Bridges would still be on Michigan State’s roster. Fast forward six months and the odds of Bridges returning for his sophomore season were even slimmer. However, he shocked the college basketball world by passing up the NBA and returning to East Lansing for one more year.

And because of that decision, Michigan State is a Final Four contender and Bridges is considered one of the best players in all of college basketball. Bridges has the talent and drive to achieve incredible things this season, giving Michigan State possibly its most complete player since Magic Johnson.

Player Strengths

There are a lot of strengths to Bridges’ game, so I’ll start with his offensive ability. Last year, Bridges averaged just under 17 points per game, which led the Spartans and ranked sixth in the Big Ten. How he was able to score, though, was the impressive part. Bridges featured the ability to hit shots from outside the arc — 38.9 percent — as well as inside the paint. That included putbacks and driving to the hoop. He also had a solid jumper in general.

On the other end of the floor, Bridges was equally effective and impressive. He led the team in rebounds, and a majority of those came on defense. He averaged 6.8 defensive rebounds per game — that adds up to 191 rebounds on the defensive end, which ranked fifth in the Big Ten. Keep in mind, Bridges missed seven games so he should have ranked even higher in this category.

He wasn’t only good at collecting missed shots, but he also forced quite a bit too. He averaged 1.5 blocks per game, which also led the Spartans and ranked sixth in the Big Ten. He also had a block percentage of 4.9 — that ranked ninth in the league last year.

Areas for Improvement

Turning the ball over is at the top of the list for areas to improve for Bridges. Last year, he led the Spartans with 2.4 turnovers per game. Part of that was because he handled the ball so much, but that’ll again be the case this year, so he needs to improve in this area. The good news about this: Bridges improved before the end of the season, averaging only one turnover in the Spartans’ final eight games of the season.

Another area for improvement is free throwing percentage. Bridges shot 68.5 percent from the charity stripe last year — which actually wasn’t that bad compared to others on Michigan State — on 3.3 attempts per game. Bridges has the ability to get to the rim on most defenders so with that he’s going to get fouled quite often. This means he needs to at least hit 70 to 75 percent of his free throws. He’s too talented to not cash in on the easy ones.

Player Projection

Bridges was dominant last year and everything points to him being even better this year. Reports from the offseason suggested he’s slimmed down, and showcased a more consistent three point shot during the Moneyball Pro-Am this summer. Also, with more bigs in the rotation, Bridges will primarily play his natural position of small forward.

All of those factors add up to an even more dominant Bridges this year. It’s probably too early to compare Bridges to Magic, but he definitely has a similar build of recent Spartan great Denzel Valentine. If Bridges has a season comparable to Valentine’s in 2015, then Michigan State will be raising some banners this year. Expect Bridges to dazzle the Big Ten again this year en route to claiming Big Ten Player of the Year.

‘BT Powerhouse 25’ Rankings: