As crazy as it sounds, the Michigan State Spartans are better off with Adreian Payne on the bench, healing his injured foot. I know what you’re saying, I must be crazy to think Michigan State could be better off without the big man, but hear me out.
Payne has been out for two weeks now with a foot injury and the Spartans have won each of those games — albeit, nearly every one was close until the end. Keith Appling and Gary Harris are ushering in Big Ten Player of the Year-type seasons and the Spartans are off to their best start in school history at 18-1.
So how has Payne’s absence been good for Michigan State?
Take a look at the big picture. Payne has been injured for four games and Michigan State has found a way to win all four — two of which came on the road and three were by double digits. No, they wouldn’t lose if he was in the lineup, they would actually be better, but what he is doing for the depth of this team is immeasurable.
With Payne’s absence, guys like Alex Gauna, Kenny Kaminski and Gavin Schilling have stepped up their game. Two of those guys are freshmen and Gauna is a veteran who has never really gotten much of a chance to prove himself. However, all three guys have been stellar in his absence. Kaminski accounted for a 15-point performance and six points per game in his absence, Gauna had eight points and three rebounds in a win and Schilling is seeing some more time.
Sure, Payne has been missed severely and the Spartans are not nearly the same team without him, but when he comes back, the Spartans’ depth will be obvious.
Watch out come March, folks, Tom Izzo‘s Spartans have been winning without their 16.2 points per game big man who also happens to be one of three Big Ten Player of the Year candidates on the team.
Connor Muldowney is a columnist for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @Connormuldowney, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google. You can also reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.