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2019 NCAA tournament preview: Michigan State

Michigan State Spartans: 28-6, 16-4 in the Big Ten

Head coach: Tom Izzo (24th season)

Players to watch: Cassius Winston (19.0 PPG, 7.5 APG); Nick Ward (14.4 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 60.6 FG%); Matt McQuaid (9.4 PPG, 42.3 3PT%)

Season recap: Once again, Tom Izzo's Michigan State squad sits near the top of the Big Ten and is in prime position to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament.

After losing to top-ranked Kansas to open the season, the Spartans picked up five wins in a row before falling to Louisville on the road in overtime. Following that defeat, Michigan State won its next 13 games, including ranked wins against Iowa, Ohio State and Maryland.

The Spartans hit a midseason funk, losing consecutively to Purdue, Indiana and Illinois. Michigan State rebounded strongly, and finished the season winning eight of the last nine regular conference games to clinch a share of the Big Ten regular season title and the top seed at the conference tournament in Chicago.

At the Big Ten tournament, Michigan State ran through Ohio State and Wisconsin before knocking off Michigan for the third time this season.

Injuries have plagued the Spartans this season. Junior Joshua Langford left the team’s game against Northern Illinois in the first half with an injury, and the team later announced that he would miss the remainder of the season. Before the injury, Langford averaged 15.0 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game.

Classmate Nick Ward's injury proved to be less serious, as he missed five games down the stretch of the season before returning in the regular season finale against Ohio State. 

How they make a run: The Spartans continue to shoot the ball well and Big Ten Player of the Year Cassius Winston continues to score and assist at a high level. 

How they falter: If Nick Ward cannot return to his play during the regular season before his injury, the Spartans will not make it far into the second weekend.


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