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In the thick of things, this game doesn't have a whole lot on the line, but neither team has any desire to enter postseason play with a loss. Both teams are looking to find some consistency and a win over a quality opponent should bring some confidence.
Michigan State is seemingly back to relevance after taking down Iowa on Thursday. But only seemingly because it's one game. The Spartans had lost three of their previous four games with two of those being at home to Nebraska and Illinois. After their dominant second half against the Hawkeyes, many are deeming MSU one of the best teams in the country again.
Ohio State is a different story as they could easily miss out on the first-round bye in the Big Ten tournament. The Buckeyes have lost two straight games, albeit on the road, but to lesser teams in Penn State and Indiana. They were swept by the Nittany Lions on the season, which isn't something they're proud of. OSU is now playing for a respectable seed in the NCAA tourney, as they're sitting close to the 7-seed line at the moment.
Michigan State won the first meeting between these teams, but that was all the way back on Jan. 7 and it happened to be Ohio State's first loss of the season. These teams are miles removed from that game. The Buckeyes managed to take that game into overtime even with zero starters reaching double figures, as Sam Thompson and Marc Loving combined for 28 points off the bench. The usual suspects took control for MSU in the win with Gary Harris, Keith Appling and Adreian Payne going for 51 points.
If the Spartans really righted the ship against Iowa, they should win this game. Ohio State's offense has been a question for the entire Big Ten schedule. You never know what to expect from them and they can't win solely on defense.
The two players that have to make a difference are Lenzelle Smith Jr. and LaQuinton Ross. Ross has 19 points in two straight games and Smith went for 19 last game, as well. Of course no one else stepped up as Aaron Craft shot 2-for-11 and they lost to Indiana. With the Spartans back at full strength, it's going to be tough for the Buckeyes to get open looks in this game.
In the first matchup, these teams combined for 38 turnovers with OSU having 21 of those. Obviously, that kind of number will not bring a win. The funny thing about that first game was that that the Buckeyes out-rebounded MSU by 14 with 15 offensive boards. One would have to think that's not going to happen again.
Ohio State will need help from someone like Thompson, Shannon Scott or Amir Williams to get the win.
As for the Spartans, Keith Appling is supposedly back with a healthy wrist. He finished with 12 points and a couple threes on Thursday which is a good sign. Payne is showing signs of fatigue lately which will be something to keep an eye on. And then there's Branden Dawson, Gary Harris and the unsung all-around threat of Denzel Valentine.
A win here for the Spartans could make them the favorites in the Big Ten tourney, even if they are only a two or three seed. If they play to potential, it's going to be tough for the Buckeyes to keep up on the offensive end. Of course, playing to potential is not something you can predict.
Predicted Score - Ohio State 68 Michigan State 63
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