#5 – Cassius Winston, Michigan State
Throughout the last two seasons, Michigan State’s success largely revolved around All-American forward Miles Bridges. With Bridges opting to jump to the NBA and now suiting up for the Charlotte Hornets, Tom Izzo and the Spartans are in need of someone else to step up and take the reins of this team.
The most likely candidate is junior point guard Cassius Winston, who had a coming-out party of sorts last season as a sophomore, when he emerged as the most valuable player offensively for Michigan State, as well as one of the premier floor generals in the nation.
He averaged 12.6 points (second on the team behind Bridges) and 6.8 assists per game (tops in the Big Ten and ninth nationally) while averaging 52.6% from deep (led the Big Ten and second nationally). Winston had always been known as a gifted table-setter, but what took him to that next level as a deadly offensive threat last season was that drastic improvement as a shooter. For his efforts, he was named Third Team All-Big Ten last season by both the media and the coaches.
Two of Winston’s classmates-shooting guard Joshua Langford and forward Nick Ward-are also contenders to emerge as Michigan State’s alpha dog, but my money is on Winston to continue his upward trajectory and become an All-American this season for the Spartans, especially if he is able to curtail his propensity to turn over the ball, which drives Izzo absolutely nuts on the bench.
Michigan State is the clear-cut best team in the Big Ten right now and has legitimate national title aspirations, but to get there, Winston will be relied upon to take the next step in his evolution as a player and take Bridges’ place as the face of this program.