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The further in the season we get, the more important the games are. Determining a winner in this game will not be easy, especially with how off-and-on both have been lately. Michigan State is coming off a four-point home loss to the Hoosiers in a game many MSU players considered their worst effort of the season. If you have your worst game of the season against the No. 1 team in the country, you're doing something wrong.
As for the Buckeyes, they completely demolished Minnesota in the second half on Wednesday night en route to a 26-point win. However, in their previous game the result for Ohio State was the opposite in Wisconsin losing by 22 points. The last time these teams played back on Jan. 19 in East Lansing, it went down to the wire with the Spartans coming out with a three-point win led by six straight points in the final minute by Keith Appling.
Appling led Michigan State in that game with 15 points even with one of the best defenders in the nation on him, Aaron Craft. It's an understatement to say that those two will be battling all afternoon in the backcourt. Craft only finished with five points in that game, but also had six assists and five turnovers.
Ohio State will need more help offensively from players other than Deshaun Thomas to be able to win this one. Even with six threes and 28 points in that first matchup, it wasn't enough as no one else on the Buckeyes was able to get more than six points. Wednesday was a different story as LaQuinton Ross and Shannon Scott both came off the bench to give double-digit points in quality minutes. Who will step up in this Sunday Showdown? Outside of Thomas and Craft, no other Ohio State starter played more than 20 minutes against Minnesota. For them to get their second straight home win, they'll need their role players to show up.
While the Spartans are coming off a home loss, they only have three conference losses with two of them coming against Indiana. They haven't been outstanding on the road which is why OSU has the advantage here, but things change and MSU knows a win here would be important leading up to their rematch in Ann Arbor.
The Buckeyes defense will have to step up as Michigan State's offense continues to improve. Adreian Payne is always a pain to deal with, but he'll be returning to his home state in this one which means a special game could be coming from him. He has 32 points, 21 rebounds and five blocks in the last two games. His counterpart, Derrick Nix, does the rest in the post. Yet to be mentioned is the Spartans leading scorer in conference play, Gary Harris. He can hit the long-range shot, but also showed his ability to drive against the Hoosiers. Denzel Valentine has turned into a new threat coming off the bench in the past month and should not be overlooked as he's a big guard that can dish and score. Throw in the most athletic guy on the court in Branden Dawson and this looks like a definite Michigan State win.
If predicting games could only be so easy. Playing on the road changes teams and this game is no different. Ohio State just destroyed a team that was previously ranked Top 10 in the country. The numbers may lean Michigan State, but you can't sleep on the Buckeyes.
Predicted Score - Ohio State 63 Michigan State 57
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