WHO: No. 22 Michigan State (23-7, 12-5) vs. Ohio State (22-8, 9-8)
WHAT: Big Ten matchup
WHEN: Sunday, March 9, 4:30 p.m. (CBS)
WHERE: Value City Arena
FUN FACT: MARCH ON
Ohio State eliminated Michigan State from the Big Ten Tournament in 2013 with 61-58 victory in Indianapolis.
MATCHUP TO WATCH FOR: KEITH APPLING VS. AARON CRAFT
I hate to beat a dead horse, but Sunday’s matchup between seniors Keith Appling and Aaron Craft is possibly as big as it ever has been. While the implications aren’t as big as they’ve been in years past, Appling, the Spartans’ heart and soul, is coming off a game in which he showed multiple glimpses of the Appling that was conducting MSU prior to his wrist injury.
Appling had 12 points on 4-for-7 shooting — including 2 for 3 from 3-point land — and three assists in Michigan State’s victory over Iowa on Senior Day. In the three games prior to that, Appling scored a combined 12 points and had 10 turnovers.
Michigan State needs Appling to get back to his aggressive style of play before the Big Ten Tournament and the NCAA Tournament, and there is no better test than Ohio State’s Aaron Craft.
Ohio State has had one of its worst Big Ten seasons in recent memory. They are currently on a two-game losing streak — losses to Indiana and Penn State — and need some momentum heading into the Big Ten postseason.
Craft, similar to Appling, is the engine for his team, and with the Buckeyes’ recent woes, I think we will see a determined senior.
X-FACTOR: MSU’s KEITH APPLING
If it wasn’t for his recent injury, and lackluster, unconfident play over the past couple of weeks, Appling wouldn’t even be considered for Sunday’s x-factor. But like I said, MSU isn’t sure what it’s going to get from its senior. Was Thursday’s play just a product of the Spartans’ dominant victory, or is he feeling comfortable again? We will find out soon.
MSU expects a lot from Appling, in general, but with his recent setbacks it’s unknown which Appling will show up.
PREDICTION: MSU 79, OHIO STATE 64