DETROIT- 14-seeded Bucknell gave 3-seeded Michigan State a scare. Zach Thomas was hitting shots from the logo reminiscent of Giddy Potts and the Bison had their sights on an upset reminiscent of Middle Tennessee in 2015. The Bison trailed by just four at the half and shot over 70 percent from behind the arc heading into the break.
Then Miles Bridges took over and carried Michigan State into the second round.
Let’s see what we can takeaway from Michigan State’s First Round win.
What We Learned:
1. Michigan State and Miles Bridges are still evolving
The evolution of the Michigan State basketball team is still going. Even after their first round win against Bucknell. The Spartans have had to face adversity all season. From the issues the school has had off the court to the inconsistencies they have had on the hardwood, the Spartans have gone through it all. But Bucknell was a different task to take care of.
In a weekend full of surprising upsets, Michigan State could have been the next to go down.
However, really for the first time this season, Miles Bridges took over a game with an attitude the Spartans have not seen from him. Bridges would not let his team fall in front of thousands of Michigan State fans.
His 29 points led all scorers and he did it by over-powering the Bison in every facet of his offensive game. He backed down defenders leading to easy shots in the paint. He pulled up from mid-range and from behind the arc and drilled shot-after-shot. And then he showed off why he will be a top-10 pick come NBA’s draft in June when he nailed a nasty jumper spinning to the baseline and fading away.
If he can do this for five more games, Michigan State may be cutting down nets in San Antonio.
2. The Spartans are a different team when Josh Langford is hitting shots
Nobody in the Big Ten needed the week off in-between the Big Ten Tournament and the NCAA Tournament than Josh Langford. His in-effectiveness down the stretch of the season left him wondering what he could be doing differently and ultimately contributed to Michigan State’s downfall in the Big Ten Tournament.
We have seen vintage performances from Langford this season. When Michigan State blew out Notre Dame and North Carolina in non-conference play, Langford was at the peak of his offensive game. And then he fell apart.
A week off to clear out his head and re-gain his confidence was exactly what he needed. Against the Bison in the first round of the NCAA Tournament he was back to his early season form. And his teammates sensed it coming.
“He was due for this type of game,” said Cassius Winston after the win. “We knew it was coming. He picked the perfect time to get it going.”
And Michigan State needed every bit of it as upset was on the minds of everyone in Little Caesers Arena with Michigan State holding a slim four-point lead at the break before pulling away in the second half.
When Langford is locked in the way he was against Bucknell, Michigan State is a different team. They become a team that can inconsistently hit shots from the outside to a team that can put away anyone using the three-pointer. The question now to be answered is can he sustain this for another game, then another and then another.
In the tale of two halves that Michigan State played Friday night, they showed why they can get bounced before the second weekend or why they can be playing in San Antonio. It took a 61 percent shooting effort from the field for the Spartans to match the three-pointer barrage induced by Thomas and Bucknell. How many more times can Michigan State survive against a team that has shot as well as they have all season before they cant overcome it.
The second half Spartans showed they can get to San Antonio and compete for a national championship. When Bridges is scoring 30 points and scoring at will, it puts opposing defenses on their heels. When Josh Langford is at peak offensive production, it stretches opposing teams defense. When Michigan State’s offensive swings the ball around the court like they did against Bucknell they are hard to stop. It is now the time for them to put it all together.