BANKERS LIFE FIELDHOUSE, INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA
SUNDAY, MARCH 11, 2012, 3:30 PM EDT
ONLINE RADIO FEED: Spartan Sports Network
The two best teams in the Big Ten, from a statistical perspective and by national reputation, are Michigan State and Ohio State. After splitting the two regular season meetings, each winning on the other's home floor, the two schools will settle it in Indianapolis this afternoon with the Big Ten Tournament title on the line.
And there may be more than just a claim to the "real" conference title and an autobid to the NCAAs at stake. Many national pundits believe that the winner of this game will get a coveted 1-seed when brackets for the NCAA Tournament are announced shortly after the game concludes.
Ohio State is making its fourth straight appearance in the title game while Michigan State hasn't been since the National Championship season of 2000. Buckeyes coach Thad Matta will be looking to make it three straight while Tom Izzo of the Spartans is seeking his third title overall. In the first meeting between the two this year in Columbus, Michigan State used a stifling defense to disrupt OSU's usual offense en route to a 58-48 victory. It looked like more of the same when the two teams met in East Lansing on MSU's senior day until Spartan freshman star Branden Dawson went down with a season-ending torn ACL and William Buford caught fire, scoring 19 of his 25 points in the second half, including the game-winning jumper with one second left.
Michigan State has been able to play Ohio State fairly tough the last two years, primarily by frustrating star center Jared Sullinger and forcing other Buckeyes to beat them. The X-factor has been Buford, who played well in the two wins and poorly (4 pts.) in the one loss. An additional item to keep an eye on will be fouls. With its reputation, deserved or not, for not fouling, Ohio State has been able to stay in games against the Spartans by getting to the free-throw line. MSU will need to play the defense that got them the win in Columbus without giving away free points and getting themselves in foul trouble.
Ken Pomeroy ($) projects an 67-65 Ohio State win in a 67-possession game, although his computers also see it as a near toss-up, with MSU having a 45% chance to prevail. This is the game thread, so the usual rules apply: nothing illegal and be cool to each other. Here's hoping the Spartans can win the deciding matchup in this series and claim a number one seed, which would be an amazing conclusion to an unbelievable regular season. We'll have a Selecton Sunday open thread up after the game. Enjoy.