Branden Dawson and Tom Izzo (Getty Images)
Injuries are becoming such an issue for third-ranked Michigan State this season that one of the Spartans' top players couldn't even make it through a routine film session without getting hurt.
Forward Branden Dawson has a broken bone in his right hand and will miss the next 4 to 5 weeks, the school announced Thursday afternoon. Dawson told reporters in East Lansing that he suffered the injury slamming his hand against a table earlier in the day while watching film with his teammates and coaches.
"They showed me a few clips on how I've been playing and what I can do to play even better," Dawson told MLive.com. "I kind of got frustrated with myself because I know I can definitely give more to this team and provide more for this team.
"We were also watching some TV clippings from videos from the Indiana game of [ESPN analyst] Dan Dakich saying that the key to our winning the national championship is going to come up to me and my intensity. I kind of got frustrated with how I've been playing and how I know I can play. I kind of got frustrated and I slammed my hand against the table out of frustration."
If Michigan State's timetable proves accurate, Dawson will miss about 8 to 10 games but should be back in time for the Big Ten tournament and the NCAA tournament. He will definitely miss all of the Spartans' difficult upcoming five-game stretch that includes fellow Big Ten contenders Michigan, Iowa and Wisconsin and a non-conference matchup with Georgetown.
The loss of Dawson is merely the latest injury in a season full of them for the Spartans.
Forward Adreian Payne has missed the last four games with a right foot injury. Guard Gary Harris missed three games earlier in the season with an ankle injury. Big man Matt Costello sat out most of December with mononucleosis. And Keith Appling, Travis Trice and Dawson have each also previously dealt with a handful of minor injuries and ailments.
The good news for Michigan State is that none of the injuries have been season-ending and that the team has still won 18 of 19 games in spite of the absences. The bad news is there's a very realistic possibility the Spartans could be without both their starting forwards when surging Michigan visits the Breslin Center on Saturday night for a first-place showdown in the Big Ten.
Expect Michigan State to go back to a bigger lineup during Dawson's absence, with the 6-foot-9 Costello remaining in the starting lineup and 6-foot-8 forward Kenny Kaminski joining him until Payne is healthy again.
Dawson was averaging 10.2 points and 8.7 rebounds and was coming off a 13-point, nine-rebound performance in a victory against Indiana on Tuesday. Payne was averaging 16.2 points and 7.7 rebounds and had emerged as a Big Ten player of the year candidate prior to his injury.
Michigan State has proven it can win without one of them. Doing it without both in the nation's toughest conference, however, would be a tall order.
- Sports & Recreation