Edson: How Far Can the Spartans Go in NCAA Tourney? Miles (Bridges)

There is no clear cut favorite to win this year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

So before you start filling out your brackets if you get in a tourney pool, consider this: Which top player can carry his team through the grueling three-weeks?

Based on what I’ve seen this year that could be Michigan State’s Miles Bridges.

Even during games when he’s playing less than his best, Bridges comes up big when the Spartans need him.

Case in point? During Saturday’s record-setting 27-point comeback against Northwestern, Bridges had done little before the final few minutes. Of course, he has a different standard for “doing little” than most players.

But down the stretch, when Tom Izzo needed him most, Bridges hit key free throws, defended well and got some crucial rebounds. It’s what big players do in big moments.

The Spartans now have the inside track to win or tie for the Big Ten regular season championship. Still, for some reason, I don’t consider this a banner regular season for Michigan State.

I can’t quite put my finger on it. Maybe it was the blowout loss to arch-rival Michigan. Maybe it was just barely winning against some mediocre teams. Maybe it was the stain of the investigation involving Michigan State athletic teams.

Do I think the Spartans can win the NCAA tournament? Yes.

Do I think they will do it relatively easily? No.

Nothing seems to come easily for this team. And that seems to be the theme that is carrying the Spartans.

The truth is, the Spartans have the personnel to win the tournament. They also have a Hall of Fame coach.

So all the elements are in place for a successful run.

Even though there is no clear cut team to watch out for, there are a lot of talented teams that can give the Spartans trouble.

So there can’t be any “off nights” in the NCAA tournament like there was during the Big Ten regular season.

To make sure of that, your best players have to elevate their games.

These Spartans can do that. They can win it all this year… if Miles Bridges can take his team the extra mile.

Nick Edson is a retired Hall of Fame columnist and sportswriter. He worked 25 years at the Traverse City Record-Eagle, 18 as sports editor. He is a two-time president of the Associated Press Sports Editors Association and a member of the Michigan Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame.