#1 Michigan State vs #3 Ohio State
Although Wisconsin came out firing, as much as a Bo Ryan coached team can, they were unable to hold off Michigan State for more than 14 minutes of action. Sparty has proven that they are able to win by jumping out early and simply controlling the game from start to finish (see Iowa game on Friday). However, in yesterday’s game against Wisconsin, they fought their way back from an 11 point deficit, and then proceeded to pound Wisconsin with overwhelming defense and rebounding. As usual, Michigan State was led by it’s All-American, Draymond Green, who had 14 points and 16 rebounds.
The Buckeyes, apparently not wanting to deal with “Beat Ohio” chants from the Wolverine fans, made it clear from the start of their game that losing to their rivals would not be an option. Those same Wolverine fans, however, got a taste of the “O-H-I-O” cheer, as it could easily be heard all the way back in Columbus (sure, that’s because of technology and my surround sound, but still).
Jared Sullinger scored OSU’s first 6 points, and continued to lay it on from there, ending with 24 points. Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas combined for only 9 points less than M*chigan’s entire roster, but in all fairness, the pair was winning the battle when they were removed from the game with 4 minutes left. Yes, you read that correctly. When Sully and Thomas were pulled from the game, they had combined for 46 points, and UM had just 44. Hell, Trey McDonald scored his first points of the season in this game, so that should tell you how competitive it was (no offense to Trey, he simply hasn’t played more than a few minutes in any game).
On the other side of the ball, Aaron Craft’s vacuum seal defense forced M*chigan’s star point guard, Trey Burke, into more turnovers than points for the first time in his college career. He finished with just 5 points (8 turnovers), a day after putting up 30 against Minnesota. In fact, it took him 33 game minutes until he made his first shot from the field.
As I said yesterday, the two best teams in the Big Ten will meet in the Championship Game, and it should be a good one. Sure, the Big Ten Championship is on the line, but there could be a lot more riding on this game than that. Although it’s certainly not a done deal, the Big Ten winner may just earn a #1 seed in the Big Dance.
There is obvious bias coming from a website entitled “Scarlet and Game,” but I feel that OSU is hitting it’s stride at the right time. The Spartans are no slouches, by any stretch of the imagination, but their recent losses to Indiana and the Buckeyes have shown some weaknesses in their game. Sparty allowed several open looks for OSU’s guards in the second half their last matchup, and will likely try to adjust to account for this in today’s game. Hopefully Buford’s 25 points put the fear of God into MSU, and this will make them respect the perimeter, while leaving Sullinger just enough space to work with underneath.
The game may be played on the hardwood court, but it might as well be in a ring. I expect both teams to be extremely aggressive defensively from backcourt to frontcourt. As scary as it is to say, the fate of this game could have a lot to do with the guys in stripes holding the whistles. Relax, that’s not a preemptive excuse in case things go poorly, merely an opinion that when the refs swallow the whistles, OSU wins. When they are making calls on borderline plays, then our lack of scoring depth on the bench can become a factor.
I’m going with a “let the kids play” approach tomorrow, and assuming that Sullinger will be able to spend 32+ minutes on the court. This means that Nix and Payne won’t have their way with Ravenel, and OSU can play its game. One thing’s for sure, we’re in for a battle.
Prediction: MSU 70 – OSU 76