Almost every spring, college basketball gets lucky by way of having a possible/probably lottery pick-type talent opt to bypass the NBA to return to college. In 2016, it was Ivan Rabb at Cal. In 2015, it was Kris Dunn at Providence. Years before that, Creighton's Doug McDermott, Ohio State's Jared Sullinger and Indiana's Cody Zeller and Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart chose similar paths.
Often times, those decisions lead to the players coming back to earn All-American status. That should be the case for Miles Bridges next season. Michigan State is suddenly going from pretty good to very good, thanks to Bridges' unconventional choice. On the heels of a report from The Vertical on Wednesday, Bridges posted this on Twitter Thursday afternoon:
On Thursday night, in front of thousands on campus, Bridges officially announced he would return.
"I want to win a national championship, my teammates are a big part of it. I love my teammates," Bridges said, adding shortly thereafter, "I knew I was going to get better, but I would rather stay here and get better with my teammates and become a better person with them."
Bridges' return amounts to one of the biggest headlines of college basketball's offseason. With him coming back, MSU should be a unanimous top-five team heading into 2017-18. The Spartans will be a Final Four favorite. Tom Izzo will have reasonable expectations to win his second national title. Sparty will also have the strongest sophomore class in college basketball, thanks to Nick Ward, Cassius Winston and Josh Langford all returning.
Bridges was a top-10 freshman in college hoops this past season. He averaged 16.9 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists while shooting 39 percent from 3 and 55 percent from 2. He was one of the most exciting players in the game. He'll certainly be one of the five most recognizable names in college hoops by the time we get to November.
College basketball has a debatable group of teams vying for No. 1 status now: Kansas, Arizona, Michigan State, Louisville and North Carolina all have a case. It's been many years since we had five teams who could claim preseason status as the top team. Michigan State is undeniably in that class with Bridges back. He'll likely be a preseason First Team All-American choice and will enter next season with a chance to up his draft status even higher.
Remember, the 2018 draft isn't perceived as strong at the top or as deep in the middle as 2017's. So Bridges takes a little gamble, but in the big picture, he's hoping to win a Big Ten title, get a top seed in the tournament, make a Final Four and go from a projected 10-15 pick to a top-seven choice. Hard to fault him there. This decision has huge upside for Bridges, Michigan State and college hoops.