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Michigan State Basketball: Ohio State Big Ten Tournament Preview

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MSU plays its first game in the Big Ten Tournament and faces a familiar opponent in Ohio State who MSU has played twice in its last 4 games. MSU won the first two games by an average of 17 points

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Game Info

Opponent: Ohio State

Location: Indianapolis, IN

Time: 6:30pm EST

Channel: BTN

KenPom Line: MSU -10

First off here's an update on the Big Ten Tournament Log5

(The difference between my numbers and KenPom's were that I did not include any potential homecourt advantage for Indiana or Purdue)

Scouting report

  • The guy who gave MSU the most trouble in the last two games was 6'7" Junior Marc Loving who got to the FT line 10 times against MSU in both games and averaged 20. He's an interchangeable forward for Ohio State who gave MSU some trouble as he's almost entirely a perimeter player rather than a Nigel Hayes or Brandon Taylor type who can play in the post. He's shooting just 3t% from 3 on the year but much of that can probably be attributed to trying to create more as 88% of his 3 are assisted this year whereas 100% of his 3 were assisted last year when he shot 46% from deep.
  • The other guy who gave MSU some trouble last game was 6'5" freshman JaQuan Lyle who I would say is like a more athletic freshman version of Denzel Valentine in that he's a passer (with a pretty high turnover rate) but isn't at all what you would call a shooter. He could be breakout guy next season but for right now he's just an interesting freshman to watch run a somewhat dysfunctional Ohio State offense.
  • 6'7" sophomore Keita Bates-Diop (in a lower usage role) has basically been a more efficient version of Loving who does however get to the line more. Bates-Diop has about 15 pounds on Loving and has a solid defensive rebounding rate but shoots just a little bit worse from 3 than Loving at 33%. He also has a solid block rate that's ranked 11th in the B1G in conference play.
  • 6'2" sophomore Kam Williams is the one very good shooter (47%) on a team of a bunch of mediocre shooters. He's a good scorer but does little else in terms of getting to the free throw line, assisting, and rebounding.
  • Ohio State's center position is taken up by a couple freshman in 6'11" Trevor Thompson and 6'10" Daniel Giddens. Thompson is just better overall including a very good offensive rebounding rate while Giddens is pretty limited offensively but has a slightly better block rate. While it would probably be in Ohio State's best interest to play Thompson more, they probably are forced to split it because they both have very high foul rates.

Four Factors

MSU on Offense

MSU on Defense

Things to watch for

  • This one is a bit more about vanity than anything else. Can Valentine put on a show to match Buddy Hield's 39 point performance against Iowa State last night? Most of the media see it as a pretty much dead even race for POY honors with Hield maybe as a slight favorite. In the first couple games against Ohio State, Valentine averaged 22 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 10.5 assists in two victories. Those kind of stat lines are nice but he might need even more to push past Buddy. However, the smart thing to do would likely be to rest Valentine as much as possible as they very likely could play a couple more games in the next two days. It'd be nice to have Valentine get more POY honors but at what cost? In the end MSU winning the B1G tournament will likely help Valentine's case more than a good game against OSU would.
  • Can MSU slow down Marc Loving? In the past two games Loving scored 19 points and then 21 in the rematch. It feels pretty concerning for me that the one player who gave MSU the most trouble in the first game was able to do even better even after MSU should've been able to scout him more and see where they went wrong. He's a player who's good at getting to the line so whoever is guarding him (Forbes? Harris? I'm not even sure who it was) hopefully will be able to make the proper adjustments.
Bottom Line

Barring some very cold shooting nights from multiple MSU players, I'm just not sure I see them losing. MSU appears to have the Buckeyes' number this year and it would seem to take a lot of things to go wrong to stop them at this point. Even if Ohio State take away MSU's outside shooting, they're still capable of beating you in other ways.

MSU 85 - Ohio State 74