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3/11/12

Ohio State vs. Michigan State

Big 10 Tourney Championship Preview and Pick

While the two top seeds will not be playing for the Big Ten Conference tournament championship on Sunday, the two best teams will meet as the seventh-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes face the eighth-ranked Michigan State Spartans in a rematch of the regular-season finale from a week ago. The Buckeyes (27-6, 15-5 Big Ten) edged the Spartans (26-7, 15-5) last Sunday in East Lansing 72-70 to pull into a three-way tie for the conference title.

The 10th-ranked Michigan Wolverines (24-8, 14-6) earned the No. 2 seed in the Big Ten tournament but were no match for the third-seeded Buckeyes in the semifinals on Saturday. Ohio State jumped out to a 34-21 halftime lead, dominating from start to finish behind a combined 46 points from forwards Jared Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas. The dynamic duo made 19 of 29 shots from the field and also totaled 12 rebounds between them.

The top-seeded Spartans will try to prevent the Buckeyes from winning their third straight conference tourney championship and avenge a loss suffered on their home court in the last meeting. That loss cost them a perfect record at the Breslin Center and possibly a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, but they have been just as dominant as Ohio State in the first two games of the Big Ten tourney.

Michigan State routed No. 8 Iowa 92-75 in the quarterfinals on Friday and followed that up with a 65-52 win over No. 4 Wisconsin on Saturday in the semifinals. Like the Buckeyes, the Spartans covered the spread easily in both games. But they jumped out to double-digit halftime leads in each game while Ohio State was up 40-36 on No. 6 Purdue at halftime on Friday before blowing them out after the intermission.

The OVER has cashed in six straight games for the Buckeyes, who won the last meeting at Michigan State as 3-point underdogs. The Spartans led 38-29 at halftime and looked like they were going to sweep the season series after winning 58-48 at Ohio State as 8.5-point underdogs back on February 11. The Buckeyes got a game-high 25 points from William Buford to pull off the upset last week while Sullinger and Thomas had 14 and 12, respectively. Buford hit the game-winning shot with one second remaining and scored 19 in the second half alone.

Michigan State has not won the Big Ten tourney since 2000, which is also the year the team won its last national championship. The Spartans are the only other team besides Ohio State to win consecutive conference tournaments. No team has won three in a row since the first tourney in 1998.

Predicted Score - Michigan State 65 Ohio State 62

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