The Michigan State basketball team finishes its NCAA tournament practice with a dunk festival.
Mike DeFabo, Lansing State Journal

OF THE MONKS, Iowa – There is a period of adjustment for Nick Ward as the State of Michigan basketball is heading to the NCAA tournament.

To play with a padded corset on his left hand repaired surgically. To get out of the bench. To rebuild his stamina.

"It feels good," Ward said Wednesday before the Spartans training session at Wells Fargo Arena. "I just have to get used to playing with it, really, just touch it. … It's a bit weak, but it's good, though.

Ward's hand and lung capacity will be tested as the second-seeded SSM will face a 15th-seeded Bradley in the first round on Thursday. (around 2:45 pm, CBS) who likes to push the pace in attack.

More: What Tom Izzo said before the NCAA tournament match against Bradley

The 6-foot-9 junior forward returned Friday against Ohio State and played in all three games of the MSU Big Ten Championship in Chicago. That included 14 minutes against Ohio State (eight points, two rebounds), 11 minutes against Wisconsin (two points, three rebounds) and eight minutes in Sunday's 65-60 victory over Michigan (four points, two rebounds).

Ward said that he could not run immediately after, lest sweat cause an infection in his surgical scar, which somewhat hindered his stamina. Ward had a left-handed hair fracture on February 17, was operated on that night and missed the next five games of MSU. Once leaving, he leaves the bench since his return.

Michigan State striker Nick Nick reviews the drills as his team prepares for the NCAA first-round match against Michigan State on Wednesday, March 20, 2019 at the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Ohio. ;Iowa. (Photo: Kirthmon F. Dozier, Detroit Free Press)

"I could not run at all. I could not run for a week and a half, "said Ward. "Of course, it's hard to simulate the form of the game. So when I came back, I immediately ran and ran 2 miles twice a week. But no matter how much you run outside of that, you will not feel the full effect of being in the form of a game until you actually play it.

"It's completely different. The physics of a game exhausts you. "

More about the NCAA tournament:

I hate Mars, but most of all I hate your support

Bradley knows how to beat MSU: "They play … like us"

Ward continues to work to adapt to the wearing of the orthosis for the hand, which he could finish with next week. He made 6 of 12 shots on all three games in Chicago, but admitted he had trouble catching entry passes, grabbing rebounds and throwing the hook shot with which he was effective all the way. season.

"I can practice all the shots I want without a defender," said Ward. "When a defender gets in front of you, it's completely different. This is probably the hardest part right now: catch the ball. "

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Ahrens out, slowly healing

Kyle Ahrens lost his crutches on Wednesday, but the junior striker remains in a hard boot and still has not suffered an MRI on his injured left ankle, victim of Sunday's Big Ten win over U-M.

"As a child, you dream of playing in the NCAA tournament," said Ahrens. "And now, a game to play, I was still fighting pain with my back and everything else, and now I have to sit and watch. But I'm going to do everything I can on the bench to make everyone angry and get started. "

More from Seidel: Michigan State hard as nails. Like Ahrens

The doctors determined that Ahrens had a third year sprain, the most severe possible. He received an ankle fit on Tuesday from his chiropractor, who has also been treating Ahrens' back since December. It's the same leg that he broke in high school

"I could not even touch it (Tuesday)," said Ahrens about his ankle. "Now I can press and walk on it, so it works wonders for me. I will just continue to see him and take him from day to day and see how he feels. It's much better when you're in the trunk than outside the trunk and continue to jump, black and blue toes in the middle of the leg. I have bruises that I have never seen before. "

There is still no schedule for Ahrens' return, but he will not play in Des Moines.

MSU coach Tom Izzo said on Monday on his NCAA radio show that he was 99% confident that the 6-foot-6 swingman would miss the tournament.

"We are adjusting without Kyle," Izzo said Wednesday. "He has played 18, 20 minutes per game, and he will not be with us. He is with us, but drags a bag instead of tennis shoes. So, it's like that.

Michigan State Spartans' Kyle Ahrens leaves the field after the Michigan State Spartans defeated the Michigan Wolverines, 65-60, in the Big Ten basketball tournament championship game at the United Center on March 17, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo: Jonathan Daniel, Getty Images)

Long ago

At his press conference, Izzo had been questioned about his first appearance in the NCAA in 1998, during which MSU had beaten East Michigan and Princeton during the opening weekend and held a rally. 39, was then qualified for Sweet 16.

That made him understand the start of the 1997-98 season, when he thought he might be fired, and rookie Mateen Cleaves and sophomore Antonio Smith started laying the groundwork. of what would come by winning 16 victories. 18 games after a 4-3 start.

"The enthusiasm of the tournament, I do not think it has ever changed for me," said Izzo. "I like Mars, I like the tournament, I love the way it's going." I like to play games and I love watching other games. … I have a lot of memories of that and I do not have to look for them. But I still appreciate them today, 22 years later.

Contact Chris Solari at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @chrissolari. Learn more about the Michigan State Spartans and sign up for our Spartans newsletter.