College Basketball Pick
In previous seasons, this would be a heavyweight matchup with a lot of eyes watching. Instead, the ramifications aren’t as big, although both teams still need a win for different reasons.
Michigan State has not been great this year and has become a bubble team because of it. A win would relieve Tom Izzo of some stress. A loss here for Ohio State would put them out of the Top 25, as Michigan State is right on the edge of the RPI Top 50.
While this Game is at the Breslin Center, the Spartans have not been good there in Conference play this season, in fact they’ve been underwhelming. Sure, they have a winning record there, but that doesn’t tell the entire story. For a team that rarely loses on its home cOurt, they just lost to a beat up Illinois team and before that, played to Four overtimes in their past seven home Games, including a non-Conference loss to Texas Southern. In their last Four Big Ten home Games, against some of the lower teams, they have struggled.
But that’s not to say Ohio State is an outstanding road team because they aren’t. Without the help of Marc Loving, the Buckeyes lost last week at Purdue. Other results include close escapes at Minnesota and Northwestern, along with losses at Indiana and Iowa. OSU looks like the better team record-wise, but they tend to be even with almost every opponent on the road.
The matchup to watch is with one of the best freshman in the country in D’Angelo Russell. He runs this team and for Ohio State to have any kind of success, it all starts with him. When the Buckeyes needed a win last weekend at Rutgers, he finished with a triple-double compiling 23 points, 11 boards and 11 assists. He is absolutely everything to this team.
On the other end of the cOurt, Michigan State will likely put Denzel Valentine on him because he has the height and size to deal with Russell, but the Spartans switch on most screens on the defensive end so that could play a factor. No matter, Tom Izzo will likely mix it up if Valentine gets into foul trouble early, or if he just can’t deal with Russell, which is probable.
A couple guys have stepped up for the Buckeyes with Loving gone and that’ll have to be the case again. Jae’Sean Tate and Keita Bates-Diop combined for 34 points at Rutgers. Ohio State isn’t a big team and MSU’s advantages will be down low. It’s expected that Shannon SCott will take Travis Trice out of the Game entirely, but Trice came off the bench (Tum Tum Nairn started) at Northwestern so that is something to monitor.
If Russell matches up with Valentine on the other end, that will be fun to see, but down low is where the Spartans will win. That starts with Branden Dawson, who is basically averaging a double-double. This is the type of Game in which he’ll have a huge impact because he can dominate the undersized Buckeyes on the boards. OSU’s two leading rebounders are Russell and Tate, both listed at under 6’6″. For the Spartans to win, expect at least a double-double from him and solid Games out of Gavin SChilling and Matt Costello.
With how Michigan State has played at home this year, it wouldn’t be surprising for them to put more into this Game. But after how MSU played at Northwestern on Tuesday, they looked a bit hungrier and fans are hoping that will carry over.
The Buckeyes are a disliked rival and this is one of OSU’s tougher home matchups of the year. It will inevitably be a close Game, but if MSU figures out how to stop Russell just a little bit, this one will be going to Michigan State. Easier said than done for a team that just lost to an undermanned Illinois team at home, however.
Our Prediction – Ohio State by 1