It hasn’t been a good week for Michigan State. After losing at home in surprising fashion to North Carolina and likely losing its No. 1 ranking in the process, the Spartans are now going to be without a key part of its team for the foreseeable future. It now appears star guard Gary Harris will be out indefinitely, as he tweaked his ankle in the game against the Tar Heels Wednesday night. Not only did the Spartans lose their first game of the season this week, but now will be without the almost unanimous Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year pick for at least a few weeks more.
Depending exactly how long Harris is out could have a big influence on Michigan State’s seeding and potentially the Big Ten race. The Spartans have two easy games against Oakland and North Florida before going on the road to battle Texas in two weeks. It has another game with New Orleans a week later, but then the Big Ten slate opens at Penn State on New Year’s Eve, at Indiana on January 4 and then home against Ohio State on January 7. The report says that Harris will be completely held out of basketball activities for the next few weeks, likely with the hope he’ll be ready to go by the start of the new year. Either way, it isn’t a good situation for the Spartans who need the talents of Harris to compete at their highest level.
Michigan State already was a team relying heavily on its starting line-up, specifically Harris, Keith Appling, Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson. Tom Izzo’s bench has up to this point received only 25.7 percent of the available minutes, which ranks the Spartans in the bottom 100 nationally. Now it will need heavy minutes from Travis Trice and Denzel Valetine to fill the void left by Harris’ shooting and scoring abilities. If their superstar isn’t fully healthy by Big Ten play, those first two road games won’t be easy against a solid Penn State backcourt on the road and the always tough Assembly Hall against Indiana. The Spartans can’t really afford to have him out for an extended period of time or it could find itself starting the conference slate in a big hole. Not to mention it could impact hope for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament with too many losses. No matter what, though, we are going to learn exactly how much or little depth the Spartans have this season over the next few weeks.