It’s mid-October, and Michigan State is already running out of healthy big men.
The Spartans announced Wednesday that projected starter Gavin Schilling suffered a non-contact injury to his right knee during Friday’s practice. The injury will require surgery, and there is no timetable yet for the 6-foot-9 senior’s return.
“This is certainly an unfortunate setback for Gavin, as he had been practicing very well,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said in a statement. “He had an incredible summer and was in excellent shape as he was ready to make his senior season the best one yet.”
Schilling’s injury comes about two weeks after his primary backup Ben Carter suffered a knee injury of his own. Carter, a graduate transfer from UNLV, underwent surgery last week, and there is no timetable for his return either.
With sophomore forward Kenny Goins just now returning to practice after offseason knee surgery, the lack of depth in the Michigan State frontcourt is a major concern. Freshmen Miles Bridges (6-7) and Nick Ward (6-8) are the only players left on the Spartans’ active roster who are taller than 6-5 and not dealing with injuries.
Adding to Michigan State’s problems is that its daunting early schedule is poorly suited to an injury-plagued roster. Before the calendar turns to December, the Spartans could play as many as five games against Top 25 opponents — all away from East Lansing.
The gauntlet begins in Honolulu where Michigan State opens the season against a young but loaded Arizona team. Four days and six time zones later, the Spartans meet likely preseason top three Kentucky in New York. Then comes the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, which features the likes of Louisville, Baylor, VCU and Wichita State. And as if that’s not enough, looming on Nov. 29 is a visit to likely preseason No. 1 Duke.
What Michigan State’s injury woes mean is that the heralded Bridges will play almost exclusively undersized power forward rather than small forward. Ward will also have to play more than expected initially even if Goins is ready by the Spartans’ Nov. 11 season opener.
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