WHO: No. 4 Michigan State Spartans vs. No. 18 Ohio State Buckeyes
WHAT: Spartans continue their hunt for a Big Ten Championship
WHEN: 4:00 PM ET
WHERE: Value City Arena, Columbus, OH
WHY: For the love of the game? Scheduling? I’m Ron Burgundy?
What happened last time they played?
On Jan. 19, the then-No. 18 Michigan State Spartans basketball team (22-5, 11-3) defended their home court against the then-No. 11 Ohio State Buckeyes (19-7, 9-5) in a 59-56 victory. MSU’s Keith Appling had six points in the final minute to help propel the Spartans past the Buckeyes. The junior finished the game with a team-high 15 points, and junior Adreian Payne added 14 points. However, despite the loss, the star of the show was Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas. The junior from Fort Wayne, Ind. finished with a game-high 28 points and seven rebounds.
What to watch for…
The matchup of Payne vs. the interior of Ohio State is going to be the deciding factor in Sunday’s game. Payne, an Ohio native, has played very well against Ohio State over his career, and I don’t see any of the Buckeye’s big men being able to guard him when he is getting consistent touches. However, there are times when the Spartans go several possessions when Payne doesn’t touch the ball in the paint, and not letting him get touches in the post almost every time down the court hurts them. Now, that Payne has the ability to stretch the floor and hit jumpers consistently, there aren’t many big men in the country that can guard him, and it would be beneficial to him and the team if his teammates realized that as well.
Must win for both teams
After Tuesday’s loss to No. 1 Indiana, the Spartans now trail the Hoosiers by one game in the Big Ten standings. Indiana still has to travel to Minnesota, to Michigan and host Ohio State before the regular season comes to and end, so Tom Izzo’s ball club still has a chance for another Big Ten banner. But if they lose even just one of their last three games I think they are out of the race because I don’t see Indiana losing more than one game down this final stretch.
Ohio State is unofficially out of the race for a Big Ten title race, but they are dying for a victory over a ranked opponent to finish out the regular season. The Buckeyes are 1-7 this seasons vs. ranked opponents, and a victory against one of the best teams in the nation could give them a confidence boost heading into the Big Ten Tournament.