OPPONENT: Michigan St. is going to be pissed. They set a record low on Saturday night by scoring 18 points in each half against Iowa, the same team Ohio State beat by 31, three nights earlier. That loss ended Michigan State's eleven game win streak (only loss is UCLA, 11/20), one which had pushed them to a number 6 ranking.
This is going to be a battle and it will be interesting from the beginning how it is refereed. Michigan St. comes in scoring 75.1 points a game, a +12.8 margin. As expected they get quality shots and shot 49 percent from the floor and 35 percent from deep. Michigan St. gets to the line over 21 times a game and make an impressive 74 percent of them.
Teams are shooting 38.5 percent against Michigan St. and 32.4 percent from beyond the arc, which is good for 3rd and 5th respectively in the conference. The Spartans do seem to foul quite often, as opponents are getting to the line 17 times a game.
Michigan St. leads the Big Ten in rebounding margin at +10.1 and are notoriously wicked on the boards. It is no secret rebounding is a weakness of Ohio State and this will be a key factor for tonight's game. If OSU gives up too many second chance points, they will lose.
MSU also leads the conference in assists per game at 18.4 per contest, which is good for tenth nationally. However, the Spartans turn the ball over more than their opponents, 14.6 to 13.5 and are averaging 18 turnovers in conference play.
KEY PLAYERS: MSU is lead by two dudes, Drew Neitzel (#11 6'0" Sr.) and Raymar Morgan (#2 6'7" So.), both of which are equally dangerous and lead this team in almost every offensive category. Neitzel's scoring is down a bit this year, averaging only 13.2 points per game, but leads the conference in assists to turnover ratio at 4.59 to 1. He is only shooting 41 percent from the floor and 40 percent from 3land, dishing out 4.9 assists per game.
Morgan, an Ohioan, is having a breakout season, leading the Spartans in scoring (17.6), ranking second in rebounding (7.1) and has scored in double figures 20 straight games. He is shooting 58 percent on the year and has attempted only 15 threes, electing to take 106 free throws and make 79 of them.
Goran Suton (#14 6'10" Jr.) leads this team in rebounding at 8.1 per game and scores 9.3 points, ranking him third on the team. The 6'10" hometown favorite might give Ohio State's bigs a little trouble with his range, passing skills and rebounding tenacity. This will be Kosta's biggest test since Texas A&M.
Marquis Grey (#41 6'8" Jr.) and Travis Walton (#5 6'2" Jr.) should round out the starting five. Grey will bring more size and scores over 6 points a game, while also grabbing almost 5 caroms. Walton is another Ohioan who doesn't score too much (3.3) and hasn't made a three pointer all year, but dishes out 4.5 assists a game, good for 2nd on the team.
Kalin Lucas (#1 6'0" Fr.) and Durrell Summers (#15 6'5" Fr.) are Tom Izzo's young talent who help score off the bench, while Red-Headed Stepchild Drew Naymick (#34 6'10" Sr.) leads the team in blocks with 24. Lucas and Summers give the Spartans over 16 points, 5 boards and 5 assists per game, while Naymick will chip in with 4 boards and 3 points per.
NOTES: Michigan State scored 18 points over the last 28:08 against Iowa... Michigan St. grabs 44.4 percent of their missed shots... Tom Izzo is 174-22 at home during his career at MSU, including a redunkulous 151-13 in the last 11 years.
BUCKEYE BREAKDOWN: Hopefully, Ohio State will also be pissed. They are coming off their first conference loss in over a year and look to win their fourth straight against MSU, two of which have come at the Breslin Center.
I am very interested to see how Ohio State responds, as they have not fared well against aggressive, trapping defenses. Ohio State still leads the conference in overall and 3point shooting defense, at 37 and 28 percent respectively. However, turnovers are still a major concern at 13.8 a game, including 20 against Purdue and Michigan St. will force Ohio State away from the basket once again.
Ohio State still holds strong at 70 points a game and their shooting dipped to 45.9 percent after the Purdue game. This team still has stretches of not looking inside and relies on the three pointer too much. It also seems that Ohio St. has not run as many set plays this year, one of the features I enjoy most from Thad's coaching. They have to get inside scoring tonight.
KEY PLAYERS: Will someone besides Jamar Butler please show up today? Butler is doing everything he can to lead this team and Thad has been smart at resting him before T.V. timeouts. However, they need a consistent second and third option to emerge. Lighty and Diebler have returned to their milk carton status, after a combined 2-19 effort last game.
I hope the coaches talked to Diebler about him fading away on every shot he takes. There were times in the Purdue game where he had faded back to half court before the ball hit rim. I was standing up for Diebler in an argument with a buddy last week and had to eat some crow after his Purdue performance. If he can not make shots, then his overall game seems to get hampered. Lighty just needs to make layups, he can't miss too many more can he?
I don't put much blame on Koufos and Hunter for not scoring consistently. As mentioned, this team will forget they have 2 capable Bigs inside and both guys are forced to step away from the hoop in order to get their shots. With that said, these two have been better at holding off defenders when the occasional entry pass is attempted.
What are your impressions of P.J. Hill and Dallas Lauderdale? Both have seen increased time lately and I expect the same tonight. Hill scares me with the ball, but is getting more comfortable with playing big time hoops. Lauderdale doesn't see many shots, but has been an effective sub inside over the last 4-5 games.
NOTES: On the year, Ohio State has 248 assists and 220 turnovers... OSU ranks 9th in the conference with 11.38 offensive boards a game, but rank 2nd in defensive rebounding with 26.19... Jamar still leads the conference in assists and free throw percentage... He has tied the school mark with 25 straight free throws... The game kicks off Super Tuesday on ESPN, but I will warn you the night is sponsored by KFC, so be prepared to get bombarded by "tasty vitals" commercials.