Matt McQuaid Will Be Vital To Spartans' Success Over Midseason Grind

Matt McQuaid Will Be Vital To Spartans' Success Over Midseason Grind

Basketball

Matt McQuaid Will Be Vital To Spartans' Success Over Midseason Grind

Matt McQuaid, Michigan State’s senior guard, hasn’t played for three games now due to a deep thigh bruise.  His rest will pay off as he’ll become one of the Spartans’ most versatile and valuable players when the Big Ten schedule kicks into high gear.

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Tom Izzo is right to be a bit concerned about testing the long term stamina of his floor general, Cassius Winston.

Over the course of Michigan State’s 7-2 start, Winston has played an average of 31 minutes per game.

His performance reflects a guy who is hell-bent on being recognized as one of the nation’s premiere players.

His numbers through the first nine games speak for themselves:

  • 16.8 points per game.
  • 7.7 assists per game.
  • 2.2 rebounds per game.

And through the first two Big Ten games (both victories), Winston has committed a total of one turnover.

But the wear and tear on a rugged Big Ten season – particularly a point guard for Tom Izzo – can cause a player and his team to suffer when the schedule hits its February grind.

Foster Loyer will one day be a sensational point guard and leader for Izzo but the freshman is, understandably, learning the ropes, especially with regard to playing defense at this level.

Joshua Langford can handle the point for spells – but Langford will best help the Spartans by being available to create opportunities for him by moving without the ball.

Someone is needed to help Cassius Winston at the point so Winston doesn’t collapse between now and March 1st.

Enter the Spartans’ versatile and experienced weapon, 6’5″ senior guard Matt McQuaid.

McQuaid is probably Izzo’s best lock-down defender.

McQuaid can also add even more muscle to a team that has had this type of balanced scoring over the first two Big Ten games:

78-67 victory over Rutgers:

  • Cassius Winston – 22 points.
  • Nick Ward – 20 points.
  • Joshua Langford – 14 points.
  • Xavier Tillman – 11 points.

90-68 victory over Iowa:

  • Nick Ward – 26 points.
  • Kenny Goins – 19 points.
  • Joshua Langford – 14 points.
  • Xavier Tillman – 14 points.
  • Cassius Winston – 8 points.

McQuaid suffered a deep thigh bruise against Texas in the Las Vegas Invitational Championship game and has not played since.

He’s missed the overtime loss at Louisville, the Big Ten opening win on the road at Rutgers, and the Monday night home win over Iowa.

The loss to Louisville almost certainly would have been a victory had McQuaid played.

But what if a loss in that game came in exchange for a healthy McQuaid – and that a healthy McQuaid led to Cassius Winston getting the breaks he needs?

Izzo has suggested that McQuaid might play a bit this Saturday when the Spartans complete what’s been a brutal stretch of challenges by traveling to Gainesville to go up against the Florida Gators.

While McQuaid’s return to the lineup will eventually give even more power and productivity to a team that’s beginning to seem like it has quite a few players capable of scoring, the most important element of McQuaid’s return will be his ability to give Winston the rests he needs now.

Resting Winston now will mean a strong, fresh Winston when the middle of the Big Ten grind arrives.

“Cassius is the guy I’m worried about because we’re kind of playing him into the ground right now, so he was tired,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “I mean, him and Josh (Langford) have played a lot of minutes.”

McQuaid is probably capable of scoring in double figures on a consistent basis.

But if a Big Ten Championship – and a run to the Final Four – hinges on Matt McQuaid sacrificing a few points for a few minutes running the point so Cassius can sit down on a chair and stare into the distance once in a while, can’t Kenny Goins or Xavier Tillman pick up McQuaid’s spare buckets?

Short term assignment for Michigan State – defeat Florida and get to 8-2 with a little break in the schedule and a very realistic view of an 11-2 record when Northwestern comes to East Lansing on January 2nd.

Long term assignment for Michigan State – get Matt McQuaid healthy and prepared to become the Spartans’ other point man in order to assure that Cassius Winston is going full throttle come mid February.

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