Michigan State has lived up to the hype so far this season. The very talented Spartans are currently on a 10-game winning streak, with each victory coming by double-digits. That winning streak also included wins over top 10 teams, such as Notre Dame and North Carolina.
All five of the Spartans’ regular starters are averaging double-digit point totals, but right now it appears there’s one guy who is making this team run at its full capacity — sophomore point guard Cassius Winston. I’m not saying he is the best player on this team — that belongs to future lottery pick Miles Bridges — but that he is the glue making this team dominate right now.
If you look at the pure numbers, it’s easy to see how Winston has taken a big step from last year to right now. During his freshman season, he averaged 6.7 points and 5.2 assists across 20.7 minutes per game. This year, he has improved in all of those categories. He’s now up to 13 points and a Big Ten-leading 6.8 assists in 27.2 minutes per game.
Even more impressive is his shooting accuracy from beyond the arc. He’s now hitting an astonishing 57.7 percent on 52 attempts from three-point range. It should also be noted that his 30 three-point makes in the first 12 games is more than he had all last year.
Consistency from game-to-game has also been a noticeable improvement for Winston. During the current 10-game winning streak, he has reached at least 10 points in eight games and also reached at least five assists in eight games. For some context, you can compare it to last year where he only once had back-to-back games of double digit point totals. So on an every night basis it seems like he’s coming to play and providing for Michigan State.
Finally, we are also seeing him emerge as a guy who doesn’t scare away in close games down the stretch. A perfect example was Saturday’s neutral court victory over Oakland. He scored Michigan State’s final 16 points to help the Spartans pull away in what was a one-point game with less than five minutes to go. Another good example was when he went off for 23 second half points to blow open what was a close game at halftime against UConn in the PK80.
As I mentioned, I’m not arguing Winston is the best player on this team or that he’ll be the leading scorer when it’s all said and done in March — or possibly April. But for Michigan State to live up to its full potential it’ll need Winston to remain healthy and keep doing what he’s doing.
There are roles for each of the Spartans’ contributors. Right now, Winston has elevated his game to a point that I honestly didn’t expect. If you follow my writing for BT Powerhouse, you would know I said Josh Langford was the x-factor that Michigan State needed to become elite. He also has been great this year, and deserves credit for how his game has improved. However, Winston has emerged as a true gamechanger and someone this team can rely on as a consistent weapon.
There is still room for improvement for Winston — he leads Michigan State with 2.8 turnovers per game — but it appears we are seeing him really take that next step. Time will tell if this strong play will continue throughout the year, and if it does Michigan State will only be that much harder to beat.