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Three Bench Players That Could Determine Michigan State’s Season

The Spartans will feature an elite starting lineup but the bench has some strong pieces as well.

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

We are inching closer and closer to the next college basketball season but there is still some time to go. So as we move closer we can start to look ahead to what each roster will feature, and that includes the Michigan State Spartans.

As you should know by now, the Spartans enter next season as the favorite to win the Big Ten and to contend for a National Championship next April. So with that Michigan State has put together an incredibly talented starting five.

But what about the bench? Great teams need depth off the bench to achieve great things, and it appears Michigan State has a solid core of reserves as well.

For the purpose of this article, below is my projected starting lineup for Michigan State next season. This can obviously change and won’t be the only five guys who’ll start next season but in my opinion these guys will get the bulk of the starts.

2017-’18 Michigan State Projected Starters:

  • Guard: Cassius Winston (So.)
  • Guard: Joshua Langford (So.)
  • Forward: Miles Bridges (So.)
  • Forward: Jaren Jackson Jr. (Fr.)
  • Forward/Center: Nick Ward (So.)

That starting five has a lot to offer and could possibly be the best lineup in all of basketball. They won’t be able to do it all though, and that’s where the bench comes into play.

Here are three key guys off the bench next year who could help take Michigan State to the next level.

-Lourawls ‘Tum Tum’ Nairn Jr. (senior guard)

My projection has Winston getting more starts than Nairn, but in the end it could be very even. Nairn has been the starting point guard for Michigan State for the bulk of the last two seasons and may have to get used to a new role off the bench next year. With his highly-touted leadership skills, I don’t see that being a problem.

Nairn has never been a guy who has dominated in a statistical sense. He has averaged no more than four points per game in each three seasons, but has served as a solid floor general for the Spartans — he averaged 3.6 assists last season. He’s quick and has the ability to get up and down the floor in a blink of an eye, creating more fast break chances. That is especially important when you’ll normally be the more athletic team on the floor.

Nairn is also highly regarded amongst his teammates and will be one of the key leaders on this team. When Michigan State hits a bump in the road or a bad stretch of games — because every team does — he’ll be there to help keep them afloat. Don’t expect Nairn to light up the scoreboard this year but he’ll certainly play a key role on this team.

-Gavin Schilling (senior forward)

Schilling would have been a starter last year had he not gotten hurt but this year he’ll most likely come off the bench with Ward and Jackson ahead of him. However, even off the bench, Schilling will have a significant role on this team.

Schilling is coming off a knee injury that took away his senior season a year ago, but has been reportedly fully cleared and has returned to practice. This bodes well for the Spartans.

Like Nairn, Schilling has never been dominant in the stat sheet. In fact, his best season came in 2014-’15 when he averaged just 5.1 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. However, having another reliable big man to come off the bench is always nice, especially with the possibility of Ward getting into foul trouble.

The key with Schilling is seeing how he rebounds from this injury. If he can provide the Spartans with 15-20 minutes off the bench and improve upon those numbers from 2014-’15 than Tom Izzo will be happy. But we’ll have to wait and see early on next season if he is truly at full strength.

-Matt McQuaid (junior guard)

Of the three guys on this list, McQuaid could be the most essential for Michigan State’s success. You know what you’re getting with Nairn and I’m confident that Schilling will provide some solid minutes off the bench, but I’m not sure if McQuaid can finally become a consistent scorer for the Spartans.

In the first two seasons, McQuaid has proven he can hit shots from outside — 37.1 percent in his career from behind the arc — and possibly be that deadly three-point shooter for Michigan State.

However, consistency has been the issue. McQuaid never recorded back-to-back games of 10 or more points last year and also had seven scoreless games, six of which came in Big Ten play. That simply won’t cut it this year if the Spartans are going to truly contend for a National Championship.

Langford — who could also improve on consistency — is also considered an elite shooter for the Spartans, but having another deep threat like McQuaid off the bench is essential. If he can become more reliable from game-to-game than that only improves Michigan State’s chances at achieving more next year.