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Previewing MSU vs. Ohio State

Jonathan Daniel

Game time: 6 p.m.
Location: Jack Breslin Student Events Center, East Lansing, Mich.
Online streaming:
Radio: Spartan Sports Network

Let the games begin.

With a four-game winning streak in the rearview, the real tests begin for MSU basketball, beginning with a home date against the Ohio State Buckeyes on Saturday.

OSU comes in with a 3-1 conference record, with the most recent game being a 56-53 win over Michigan, perhaps the conference's top team, last Sunday. The Buckeyes blitzed out of the gate to a huge lead before Michigan came back, but fell short. Ohio State is 1-1 on the road in the Big Ten with a blowout loss at Illinois followed up by a 10-point win at Purdue. Breslin is Breslin, but it has been different for OSU in recent years.

This Ohio State team doesn't fit the mold of recent years. It's a limited team, but a very effective team, ranked No. 10 in KenPom.

Offensively, the Bucks are No. 19 in adjO with an eFG of 52.1 percent. They shoot 36.7 percent on 3s (No. 55) and 50.6 percent on 2s (No. 69). They also take care of the ball with a a TO% of just 16.4.

I hesitate to call it a one-man show, but Deshaun Thomas averages 20.3 points, which is nearly twice as much as their No. 2 scorer (Lenzelle Smith Jr. with 10.3 points). Thomas, currently at No. 8 in KenPom POY with an offensive rating of 120.5, is not short on confidence.

Do you let Thomas get his and focus on everyone else, or make everyone else beat you? I'm guessing we could see a number of players guarding Thomas. A combination of Branden Dawson and Gary Harris, depending on the lineups. Thomas has the build to score inside, but he loves the jump shot. He's 41-101 (40 percent) on 3s. That's 51 more attempts than anyone on MSU and 37 more than any other Buckeye.

Thomas' usage rate is 26.7 percent, and the only other OSU player with a usage rate > 20 percent is LaQuinton Ross (26.8!), who doesn't start, averages 17 minutes and 8.2 points per game.

Given the fact an opposing player tends to go off and hit a career high every freaking game, it would be wise to prevent Thomas from scoring too much in this one.

This isn't a typical Thad Matta team. By that, I mean there is a bench. Eight players average at least 15 minutes, with Thomas the only one averaging more than 30. I don't know if this has ever been said before, but Thad Matta's bench is probably deeper than Tom Izzo's in this one.

Defensively, the Buckeyes have been great, with an adjD of 85.5 (No. 9) and an opponent eFG% of 43.2 (No. 22). Opponents shoot just 41.3 percent on 2s (No. 20) and 31.3 percent on 3s (No. 83). The Buckeyes also have a block% of 12.5 percent.

Aaron Craft is going to be hounding Keith Appling without fouling, like "always." Appling has already been struggling to score, but he has run the offense fairly well and isn't turning the ball over. MSU has cut down on the turnovers in Big Ten play, but OSU is forcing turnovers 21.9 percent of the time. A big part of MSU's offense is going to rely on holding onto the ball. A few threes from Travis Trice and Gary Harris would go a long way.

As for the glass, Ohio State is grabbing 34.8 percent of misses (No. 87), while opponents are getting 26.4 percent (No. 16), so this is going to be a battle. Adreian Payne should have his tackling fuel for this one, and he's arguably been MSU's top player this season.

By KenPom, Ohio State is a better offensive and defensive team, while the rebounding is pretty close. The Buckeyes also hold onto the ball better.

As a result, KenPom predicts a 67-66 OSU win with a 49 percent probability for an MSU win. So, with home court factored in, this one is a toss-up.