One day after Michigan State was named the preseason No. 1 team in the country, the Spartans suffered a significant blow when Tom Izzo announced that senior guard Joshua Langford's foot issue has re-surfaced and is projected to sideline him until at least January.
Doctors determined on Monday night to re-evaluate Langford's foot in January, Izzo said, per The Athletic's Brendan Quinn.
Langford started 13 games for the Spartans last season before a stress injury to his foot sidelined him, and he was eventually ruled out for the rest of the year. Michigan State went on to co-win the Big Ten and reach the Final Four behind point guard Cassius Winston and a strong supporting cast. At the time of his injury, Langford was averaging 15 points and 2.3 assists while shooting 40.3% from three.
Winston is back to run the offense, but Matt McQuaid, who stepped into a bigger role on the wing in 2018-19 with Langford out, has graduated. Langford was expected to start in 2019-20 before his latest setback.
Options for Michigan State this year until Langford returns include 6'6' senior Kyle Ahrens, who averaged 4.7 points in 18.8 minutes last season, 6'7" sophomore Gabe Brown, who played sparingly as a freshman but is a former four-star recruit, and true freshman Rocket Watts, the highest-rated recruit from the Spartans' 2019 class. Watts is perhaps the most intriguing option due to his pedigree, as he was the nation's No. 39 recruit and arrives with a reputation of a gifted scorer.
No matter how Izzo decides to utilize his lineup, Watts will likely see increased playing time now, as will 6'0" sophomore guard Foster Loyer. The two were both expected to spell Winston at the point, and in 2018-19 one of the main concerns around Winston was the level of minutes he had to play in light of Langford and others' injuries.
Langford's injury also means the development of sophomore small forward Aaron Henry, tabbed a breakout candidate heading into this season, is all the more important for MSU to reach its high expectations.
In the meantime, Michigan State will have to navigate one of the country's toughest non-conference schedules without its senior shooting guard. On opening night, it plays No. 2 Kentucky at Madison Square Garden, and its November and December slate also includes a trip to No. 12 Seton Hall, a visit from No. 4 Duke and three days playing at the Maui Invitational tournament.