It’s not really a shock that Michigan State and Ohio State landed in the Big Ten title game, after all, the two were the top teams in the conference all season long (sorry, Michigan fans, but it’s true).
Sunday’s matchup should tells a lot about both teams. First, will Michigan State rebound from the devastating loss that took place only a week ago? Will the real Ohio State team come to play? And of course, will the winner get a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, most likely in the West Region?
To answer the first question, Spartan fans of course say yes. And it won’t surprise anyone if they come out blazing from the start. But just as Michigan State seemed unstoppable in the Big Ten Tournament, so too has Ohio State. The Buckeyes took Michigan to the woodshed on Sunday in their 22-point win.
MSU was just as impressive in its win, save for a slow start that quickly was erased by Austin Thornton’s long-range shooting.
If anything, Michigan State would seem to have an advantage. It knows how to stop Jared Sullinger and it knows how to stop William Buford — it’s just that the Spartans didn’t stop them both in the same game.
In the first matchup this season — a 10-point Spartan win in Columbus — Sullinger had 17 points, but Buford only went for four points. In the second game — we all know how that ended — Buford went for 25, while Sullinger was held in check with 14 points.
If MSU can hold Sullinger to less than 15 points and Buford to less than 10 points, it’s going to be a win for the Spartans.
As for the Spartans, despite Branden Dawson not playing, it has not affected them at all. Brandon Wood and Austin Thornton have picked up their scoring and Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix have both been rock solid.
The game is going to have a large impact on the NCAA Tournament field, especially if North Carolina falls to Florida State in the ACC title game. As it stands now, both MSU and OSU have worse RPIs than UNC, but MSU has a better strength of schedule (No. 1 in the nation). The Spartans have played (before Sunday) 11 top-50 RPI teams, winning six of them. UNC has played seven, winning three of them. If MSU does beat Ohio State, it would seem most likely that the Spartans earn the No. 1 seed in the West Region. If Ohio State wins (and UNC wins), the Buckeyes likely won’t get a No. 1 seed since they have a SOS of 17 and an RPI of No. 7. The Buckeyes have played more RPI top-25 teams than the Tar Heals, however.
Sunday’s game should be a knock-down, drag-out classic Big Ten game. The winner will be deserving of a No. 1 seed for sure. The loser, well, it won’t be all bad with a No. 2 seed to the Big Dance waiting for them shortly after the game is over.
No. 1 seed Michigan State vs. No. 3 seed Ohio State
- Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
- TV: CBS
- Line: Buckeyes by 1.5 points
- Prediction: Michigan State 68, Ohio State 65