Tomorrow proves itself to be one of the biggest days thus far this season for No. 3 Michigan State (18-1, 7-0 Big Ten) as they will play host to the No. 21 Michigan Wolverines (14-4, 6-0) at the Breslin Center on Saturday in East Lansing. Thursday, it was announced that MSU junior forward Branden Dawson will be out four to five weeks and had surgery on Thursday evening to repair a broken a bone in his right hand.
The culprit? Dawson himself.
While watching film of his team's performances, Dawson got agitated and slammed his hand down upon a table and broke the bone, which will likely keep him off the court for over a month.
Obviously this means that Dawson will miss this weekend's big time match up with the Wolverines that will determine the leader between the two unbeaten teams in the Big Ten Conference, but team sources say they hope to have the young player back before Michigan State is set to travel to Ann Arbor on Feb. 23, though the overall picture could likely look much different then for both teams.
"I'll be fine," Dawson said of the injury. "I was out with an ACL injury (his freshman) year and I came back from it."
The loss of Dawson doesn't come anywhere near as devastating as a loss of, say, Gary Harris would to the team at this point. Harris, the Spartans' most dominant player right now, is lighting up other teams on the court, averaging 22.5 points per game and has scored 50 in the last two combined.
All of this among the backdrop of missing star player, Adreian Payne, who is still out with a sprained right ankle, doesn't seem to bode well for MSU. Payne has now missed four games and it is unlikely that he'll play this weekend against the Spartans' top in-state rival, though Izzo, who has likely been weighing the pros and cons of playing Payne lately, knows that if it comes down to it, he might have a tough decision to make soon.
"Payne is a day-to-day deal," said Izzo. "He's run twice. I don't know (if he'll play versus U-M). I don't know. I don't think he's playing, right now. He wants to play. I got the toughest coaching decision in my life to make as far that goes. Doctors have done their job, everybody else has done theirs.
"Me and him are going to sit down and talk about pain and talk about whether it would be right or it would be wrong."
Meanwhile, the Wolverines are suffering from a loss of their own with Mitch McGary out indefinitely due to a lingering back injury.
Both teams may not be at their physical peak or at full-strength, but only one team will walk out of the Breslin Center on Saturday night as a still unbeaten team in the conference.
You can follow MSU writer, Michael Ferro, at twitter.com/MichaelFerro.