The timing is not quite the same, but the scene is setting up to be the same.
Branden Dawson is coming back from injury once again heading into the Big Ten Tournament. Last year, that resulted inn outstanding three-game run and a tournament MVP award.
A repeat performance would be welcomed by Michigan State, as the senior forward has been cleared to play Friday in Chicago.
“This is a time where guys play their best,” Dawson said. “Last year, I had a good Big Ten run, so we are looking forward to doing it again.”
Coach Tom Izzo said Dawson went full-go in practice Wednesday, only sitting out a couple drills, and should be 100 percent go in Thursday’s practice. He said he hopes the performance last year can be a motivating factor for Dawson.
”I told him to do the same thing again,” Izzo said. “Everybody thinks my month is March, but your month might be March. Why not go like you did? I wanna remind him of that. …
”When you’ve got a chance to do something that you have done before, the past is a reference point.”
A season ago, Dawson came back from his broken right hand to play three games in the regular season before the Big Ten Tournament. But in Indianapolis is where he made an emphatic return, averaging 15 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.
Dawson said he has looked back at those games to see how he can make an impact once again in a major way.
“I’ve been watching film from last year’s games and just saw what I did and how I affect the game,” he said. “Just trying to bring the same mindset and approach this weekend.”
The performance as Michigan State won the Big Ten Tournament with a win in the finale against Michigan was just the start for Dawson, though. The then-junior had a 26-point, nine-rebound game against Harvard and a 24-point, 10-rebound game against Virginia as MSU went into the Elite Eight.
A similar run is what the Spartans are hoping for, but it will take more than one player stepping up to get the job done.
”If he comes back and goes crazy like he did last year, anybody would take that,” junior Matt Costello said. “Everybody has gotta pick up their game. We aren’t going to win just from BJ playing well.”