It is no secret that Durrell Summers has not lived up to his ability...at least not this year.
Summers turned down an opportunity for the NBA last year so he could come back and win a National Championship.
Little did he know that fellow senior guard Chris Allen would be dismissed from the team before the season, and—likewise—Korie Lucious was sent packing midseason.
There go two guards who shot the ball very well throughout their careers, thus putting a lot more pressure on Summers to succeed.
Summers is much better as a third or fourth-best scorer.
When the defense had to worry about three other guys besides him, he was often left with open looks. Now, without Lucious and Allen, the defense only has to worry about Kalin Lucas and Summers (from the outside), forcing Summers to create his own shot rather than let the defense sag for an open kick-out.
All of this has lead to Summers having the worst slump of his career, and his team is left on the bubble after being ranked No. 2 in the preseason.
Now that the Spartans are in a must-win situation this coming Saturday against Michigan, they need Summers more than ever to be the guy he was during last year's tournament.
I believe that Summers will have a breakout game on Saturday and here are a few reasons why...
Note: I am using the term "breakout" loosely here. I see him dropping 15 on Saturday—which is a breakout for the 2010-2011 version of Durrell Summers.
First off, Summers is coming off a 3-for-8 (.375) shooting performance this past Wednesday. Now, this is not a great shooting night (most of his points came off layups), but it is an improvement for Summers at this point. This is the first game in a long time that Summers' shooting percentage has improved.
While it is not much, it is a start.
A second reason is the potential emergence of fellow wing Keith Appling.
Appling exploded for 18 points the other night going 7-for-8 shooting. If he can hit those shots on Saturday, they will once again have another deep threat to compliment Summers. If Appling continues like this, Summers can relax a bit more, knowing that the defense has to focus on someone else.
A third reason is Kalin Lucas. Lucas has re-emerged as the top player for the Spartans, and his ability to score in the last few games has kept his team in the running. His ability to drive and kick to Summers could go a long way in getting Summers some open looks.
My next reason is that Summers is in his last go-'round with Michigan State.
He just played his last regular season home game in the Breslin Center and has one final chance to prove this season was not a waste. His final regular season game comes against archrival Michigan with tournament hopes on the line.
Summers has a knack for rising to the occasion (remember both Final Four runs?). He knows his team needs him and will give everything he has to make it to the big dance rather than play in the NIT.
His effort was better than usual the other night and he now has the memory of senior night fresh in his mind.
Knowing what Michigan State has meant to him and knowing what he means to his team, Summers will once again rise to the occasion.
Summers and Spartans fans both know he is capable of a big run, we are all just tired of waiting for it to come.
He will be out to prove that he did not throw away big money in the NBA for the off-chance at a National Championship. He knows that if he doesn't, his National Championship and NBA dreams could be gone.
My prediction for the game: Summers scores 15 on 5-for-9 shooting (3-for-5 three-pointers, 2-for-4 from inside the arc and 2-for-3 from the line). He will also collect five rebounds and a big steal at the end of the game.
Michigan State 68, Michigan 64