Preview: #18 Michigan St. at Ohio State

By Corey Carpenter on March 8, 2008 at 2:52p
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Ohio State Buckeyes Ohio State 9-8, 18-12 Big Ten Roster | Schedule 12:00 PM ET - BTN —— The Schott Columbus, OH Michigan State Spartans #18 Michigan State 24-6, 12-5 Big Ten Roster | Schedule

OPPONENT: Michigan St. plows their way into Columbus looking to squash any flickering hope the Buckeyes have of making the NCAA tournament. Sparty was the preseason favorite to win the conference, but inconsistent play has locked Tom Izzo's team into a fourth place finish, setting up another match up with the Bucks on Friday in the first game of the Big Ten tourney.

MSU ranks in the top four in most conference statistics, including third in both scoring offense (67.4) and defense (61.1). They also lead the Big Ten in shooting at 47.4 percent and hold opponents to 40.5 percent. As expected MSU out rebounds their opponents by 5.5 per game and lead the conference in assists at over 17 a contest.

KEY PLAYERS: Michigan State has three players in the top 20 of conference scorers, lead by senior Drew Neitzel at 13 points a game. Neitzel has struggled shooting within the conference this year making only 38.5 percent of his shots, including 36 percent from downtown while also dishing out 3.9 assists per game. Drew will be looking to repeat last year's performance in the Schott, going off for 29 in Ohio State's thrilling two point win.

Neitzel gets help from a pair of youngsters in Raymar Morgan and Kalin Lucas, scoring 12.9 and 11 points a game respectively. Morgan is a 6'7" sophomore from Canton who is also grabbing 5.9 caroms per contest and shooting 55.7 percent from the floor. Lucas, a 6'0" freshman, is behind Neitzel with 3.5 helpers per game and shoots 45 percent in conference play. Travis Walton, a Lima native, leads the Spartans with 4.4 assists per game and contributes close to four points a game.

Michigan State is big and experienced on the inside, lead by reigning Big Ten POW Goran Suton, senior Drew Naymick and Marquis Gray coming off the bench. Suton averaged 15.5 points and 12 boards in wins over Wisconsin and Indiana last week and averages 8.8 points and 8.1 rebounds in conference play. Naymick, a 6'10" senior chips in with 5.1 points and 4.4 rebounds within the league. Gray is a 6'8" junior who gives the Spartans over 3 points and rebounds in 13 minutes of game time.

NOTES: MSU has won four of the last five in Columbus... Tom Izzo is 15-6 against the Buckeyes in his career... Michigan St. had a 20-6 advantage on the offensive glass in their 66-60 victory over OSU in January... Sparty is 22-3 when they out rebound their opponents.


BUCKEYE BREAKDOWN: Ohio State's confidence should be riding high after their victory over Purdue on Tuesday and they will need to parlay that into two victories over Michigan State this week, something they have done only 6 times in the last 26 games of the series.

OSU showed increased offensive activity against Purdue, effectively using the pick and roll, while driving to the hoop instead of relying on the three pointer. This is the formula they have to use if they want any chance at winning next week's Big Ten tourney or success at whatever post season tournament they play.

This of course is the last regular season game for Jamar Butler, Matt Terwilliger and Othello Hunter, three seniors who have helped change the attitude of Ohio State basketball. Butler and The Wigs set a school record with 99 victories, earned 2 Big Ten titles, won the 2007 Big Ten touney and played in a National Championship game. While their leadership may have been questioned a bit this season, it is hard to ignore the overall accomplishments earned by these three during their careers. Let's hope they have a few more tricks left in the bag.

KEY PLAYERS: Butler will leave Ohio State as the all time leader in assists, three pointers made, three pointers attempted, games played, tattoos and victories. He also holds three of the top 10 season assists totals and ranks second in career FT percentage at 86 percent. I still believe he has one more run in him and it started with the second half display against Purdue, where he scored 23 of his 25 points and finally started getting to the line with 8 attempts, the same amount of freebies he has had in the last 8 games combined.

Let's hope this isn't the last regular season for Kosta Koufos. He has struggled against physical teams all year and his 4 point and 4 rebound performance against MSU the first time was no exception. Koufos had his double digits streak snapped at 12 games with a lackluster 7 point 6 rebound game Tuesday against Purdue. OSU has to have an emotional, physical Koufos in order to have any type of success over the next couple of weeks.

The Wiggler and the O-Faced Hunter are also feeling their Buckeye careers coming to a close, as they combined for 18 points and 9 rebounds on Tuesday. Their activeness on both ends of the floor filtered down to the youngsters, as David Lighty and Evan Turner lead Ohio State in assists and rebounds, respectively. D-Light and Turnerover must continue driving to the basket and hit the mid range jumper.

NOTES: Thad will be looking for his 100th victory at Ohio State, he is 3-3 against MSU here... OSU is back to fifth nationally in defensive FG percentage... Butler now has made 220 career threes and 219 free throws... The Purdue game was the ninth(?) sell out this season...

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