Star Freshman Miles Bridges Back For Spartans Vs. Rutgers

Matthew Jordan

Wednesday, January 4, 2017 2:23 PM UTC

Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2017 2:23 PM UTC

Rutgers has never won a conference road game since joining the Big Ten in 2014. Its chances on Wednesday night to get a first aren't great as the Scarlet Knights visit Michigan State, which welcomes back its best player.

Five-star freshman Miles Bridges will play for Michigan State (6:30 p.m. ET tipoff) after missing seven games with an ankle injury. One of Tom Izzo's top recruits ever was averaging 16.6 points and 8.8 rebounds when he was injured. But Bridges still isn't 100 percent conditioning-wise so he will come off the bench against the Scarlet Knights. The Spartans are -12.5 on NCAA basketball odds.

Early in the season as MSU struggled a bit, Bridges basically was the offense. But the Spartans have become a different team in his absence. Freshman forward Nick Ward has become a major force with the offense running through him, averaging 17.1 points and 8.2 rebounds in the past seven games. Ward leads all Big Ten freshmen with a 13.6 scoring average. Alvin Ellis is playing the best basketball of his collegiate career, coming off 36 points in the first two Big Ten games of the season. MSU was 6-1 without Bridges and is one of just three teams in the early going without a Big Ten loss (Wisconsin and Nebraska the others).

“Having a guy that has a little more well-roundedness and as he gets ready I think he will help Nick and create a few more problem for defenses,” Izzo said. “But I think we’ve handled most of those double-teams pretty good. I think Nick has handled them and Nick has worked on it. So if they want to double us it leaves somebody open and that’s fine with me.”

Rutgers was 11-2 out of conference but again looks overmatched in Big Ten play in losses to Wisconsin and Penn State. The Scarlet Knights are 0-4 all-time vs. Michigan State and lost each matchup by at least 30 last year. The Knights, losers of their last three, are led by Mike Williams at 12.1 points per game. Rutgers is 3-35 in Big Ten play -- 6-24 ATS on NCAA basketball picks in its past 30 -- but it does lead the Big Ten by holding opponents to just 37.5% shooting and is second at just 62.3 points allowed per game.

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