Friday, October 08, 2010

Michigan State Loses Russell Byrd To Injury

Tough news for Michigan State as incoming freshman Russell Byrd has a foot injury and will likely need surgery. He'll possibly redshirt the entire season. Byrd was a pretty highly rated recruit ( rates him the 19th best shooting guard, ESPN rates him 20th, and rates him 115th overall), but he was only the second best shooting guard recruit for the Spartans (Keith Appling is a more explosive player, and more ready to go from Day One, while Byrd is considered a little bit more of a developmental project). And I had projected Michigan State to have the best backcourt in the nation anyway.

But Michigan State kicked Chris Allen off the team in August, and Korie Lucious just had arthroscopic surgery on his knee. Michigan State expects Lucious to be back by the start of the regular season, but you never know for sure with knee injuries. If Lucious is out longer, and Byrd is indeed gone for the season, Michigan State suddenly becomes very thin at the guard position.

Kalin Lucas is a serious contender not just for Big Ten Player of the Year (he's already won that award once before) but National Player of the Year. With Durrell Summers they'll make the best starting backcourt in the Big Ten. But after that? Lucious is a very good player who really grew into his own when Lucas was injured last season, but as long as he's hurt the only good backup guard will be Appling. Austin Thornton is a possibility, but he's not really quick enough to play guard against elite opponents. So the Byrd injury could make things tough early in the season, or at least until Lucious comes back.

When Lucas, Summers and Lucious are all healthy, Michigan State is going to have the best backcourt in the Big Ten. And they have a very strong frontcourt as well (Draymond Green is one of the most underrated players in the nation). But if Russell Byrd does lose the entire year to injury, the team does become very vulnerable to another injury to Lucas or Lucious. I still view Michigan State as the Big Ten favorite, and a legitimate National Championship contender, but we saw with Texas last season just how easily an elite team can be undone by too many backcourt injuries.

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