19-12, 10-8 Big Ten
Roster | Schedule
March 14, 2008
2:30 PM ET - ESPN
#19 Michigan State
24-7, 12-6 Big Ten
Roster | Schedule
OPPONENT: For the second time in less than a week, Michigan State stands in the way of Ohio State's tournament hopes. MSU became sloppy with the rock in the second half and fell to Ohio State 63-54 on Sunday. Sparty has been plagued by turnovers all season averaging 14 per game on the season, it was no different Sunday as OSU managed to create 21 turnovers leading to 28 points, helping offset their minus 12 rebounding margin.
It would be redundant of me to do the same preview twice in 5 days, so I refer you here if you did not get to read Sunday's. We all know Tom Izzo is a great coach and it will be interesting to see how he tries to beat OSU's defensive pressure. They were successful early on Sunday, but once Ohio State started rotating better within the zone, every shot was contended.
KEY PLAYERS: Michigan State has only two players who average in double figures, Raymar Morgan and Drew Neitzel. Morgan is clearly the best player on both teams and like Jamar Butler was jobbed this week when losing out to Neitzel in all conference honors. Raymar went 9-12 from the floor Sunday and his mid range jumper could be a zone killer today. Neitzel hit his first two shots and then proceeded to miss his last seven.
If Ohio State can shut down Goran Suton and Drew Naymick once again, the same result is very possible. They both made the most of their elbow jumpers on Sunday, but did not exploit it the whole game. I will not be surprised if Izzo has these two working two man games in Ohio State's zone pockets.
Kalin Lucas handled the ball well and Chris Allen hit his first three shots (all bombs), but Ohio State clamped down on both of them when they extended the pressure. After making five threes as a team in the first, MSU made zero in the second half. Durrell Summers did not score and luckily Marquise Gray played only 13 minutes, as he had 6 points and 7 boards.
NOTES: Michigan State has not been to a Big Ten touney final since 2000, they are 11-8 all time... Raymar Morgan is 35-50 from the floor in the last 6 games... MSU lost to OSU 51-50 in their only tourney meeting in 2003, losing on the infamous Charles Bass banked free throw with 6.3 left... Izzo is 50-25 in his career during March...
BUCKEYE BREAKDOWN: OSU has been comfortably on the bubble for weeks now, Wednesday they were in, Thursday they were the last team out. Luckily many other bubble teams have lost early in their conference tournaments and there is no doubt the Buckeyes are in the Big Dance with a win, which means my Vegas trip just got a whole lot cooler
Fresh off his 11W interview, the Dispatch's Bob Babtist did the same with Thad Matta yesterday and the last question struck me. In Thad's 6 years as an assistant and 7 years as a head coach, none of his teams have failed to win at least one conference tournament game, he is 6-2 in the Big Ten tourney. His team peaked last year at this time and with the wins against Purdue and Michigan State last week, this team is set to do the same.
They started to look inside consistently and got to the line, 52 attempts last week, which has lead to increased field goal percentage and scoring. This young team has to continue that mind set offensively today and must extend their zone beyond the arc from the opening tip. If these factors can hold true, Thad will have added another gem to his resume' and all entries for Eleven Warriors Steak Knives will have identical national champions, er I mean runner-ups.
KEY PLAYERS: I said it last week before Purdue, Jamar Butler is going to lead this team on a Randolph Childress like run here in the tourney. He found his legs and the free throw line (16/16) last week, earning his first Big Ten POW award this year, after averaging 22.5 points and making 7 of 12 from downtown. Butler may have some extra juice today, as he looks to avenge Drew Neitzel's robbing of his first team coaches selection.
The Wiggler perhaps senses his basketball career coming to an end, playing big minutes in both games last week. Ohio State is now 31-1 when Wiggs scores 4 or more points. I thought his defense was at its season best last week, couple that with Othello Hunter's play and this was OSU's best big man combo. Hunter scored 28 points and made 11 of his 18 shots.
D-Light and Evan Turner continued to grow with solid all around games. Turner's wrist is a concern, as he hit only 1-6 shots Sunday, but he could cause havoc with his continued penetrating. Lighty is starting to come around on offense, hitting all of his shots Sunday in route to 12 points, but he has struggled on the road this year. Diebler also struggled on the road this year and has become a non factor recently, any points from him will be a bonus.
NOTES: OSU has won 5 of 6 tournament games... Butler tied the career mark for games played at 133... OSU had a similar scenario last year, finishing the season against Michigan and then facing them in the first round... The game is also on ESPN360, for all of those stuck at work...