Previewing MSU vs. Ohio State

Gregory Shamus
Your Michigan State Spartans vs. the Ohio State Buckeyes
Jack Breslin Student Events Center - East Lansing, Mich.
Jan. 7, 2014, 9 p.m.

TV: ESPN
Online streaming: WatchESPN.com

Tuesday will be the second top-five home game in MSU history. It's also the second in as many years.

A year ago, MSU lost to No. 1 Indiana. This year, MSU welcomes No. 3 Ohio State for the conference home-opener.

The Buckeyes are 15-0 and ranked No. 1 in KenPom, despite the No. 236-ranked nonconference schedule. The Buckeyes haven't played any KP top-60 teams, but they are 9-0 against top-100 teams. They've beaten a lot of decent teams, but they haven't played any great teams. We'll get a good judgement of how good Ohio State is after this one.

The Buckeyes are No. 56 in adjO, shooting 54.5 percent on 2s (No. 17) and 34.9 percent on 3s (No. 138). It's a good, not great, offensive team. They're No. 35 in turnover rate and No. 98 in getting to the free throw line.

LaQuinton Ross leads the Buckeyes at 13.6 points and 6.0 rebounds per game, leading the team in usage. Lenzelle Smith Jr. average 12.7 points and 4.9 rebounds. Big man Amir Williams averages 9.7 points and 6.5 rebounds. Aaron Craft averages 9.3 points, 4.9 assists and 2.4 steals. Craft gets the defensive love, but Shannon Scott also averages 2.1 steals. It's a Thad Matta team, so it's a short bench. Sam Thompson is the only bench player who averages more than 14 minutes per game. (Note: Watch the lob on the inbounds below the basket).

Defense is where this team wins games. Ranked No. 1 in adjD, the Buckeyes' opponents shoot 42.2 percent on 2s (No. 23) and just 24.3 percent from 3 (No. 1). Ohio State is No. 15 in forcing turnovers and No. 7 at preventing opponents from getting to the free throw line. The matchup on the perimeter is going to be huge in this one. We all know about Keith Appling and Aaron Craft's battles. Appling has struggled at times, but has performed better against Craft in East Lansing.

The Buckeyes are average on the glass, and MSU is going to have to win here. Ohio State grabs 31.5 percent of misses (No. 171), while opponents get 30.3 percent (No. 124).

To win, MSU needs to keep Aaron Craft out of the lane, hold onto the ball, rebound and hit outside shots. The Buckeyes are No. 269 in tempo, so MSU will want to run when it cant.

Given Wisconsin doesn't travel to East Lansing or Columbus, this one is even more important.

KenPom predicts a 64-63 MSU win, giving the Spartans a 55 percent chance.

Also, be careful with the weather, folks. Izzone gates will open at 6:30 p.m., but you're not allowed to wait in line. Regular gates open up at the regular time. Be careful on the road.

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