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Dear Thad, will you be my Valentine? XOXO, Tom

NCAA Basketball: Rutgers at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Valentine’s Day!

February 14th is either a reminder of how lucky you are to have a significant other or just how happy everyone else but you is to have one. There is a bright side for those of you (us) in the later category, though, at least you don’t have to shell out for a dinner for two!

Actually, I saw screw it and eat two dinners just to prove a point. “YOU HEARD ME RIGHT, GARCON, TWO PORTERHOUSES FOR AUSTIN BAHAHAHA”

Self-induced food coma or no, this holiday has brought every Spartan at least one indelible memory

We miss you, Denzel. This V-Day, Michigan State plays host to the same team whose hearts they broke in 2015, Ohio State.


NCAA Basketball: Northwestern at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

The Numbers

  • Record: 15-11 (5-8 B1G / 3-6 Road)
  • Best Win: vs Minnesota (RPI: 24), 78-72
  • Worst Loss: @ Iowa (RPI: 293), 77-79 (OT)

Last Five Games

  • 2/11 — @ Maryland, L 66-70
  • 2/8 — vs Rutgers, W 70-64
  • 2/4 — @ Michigan, W 70-66
  • 1/31 — vs #17 Maryland, L 71-77
  • 1/28 — @ Iowa, L 85-72

Like the Spartans, the Buckeyes find themselves squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble. Both teams desperately need wins to keep their hopes alive, but OSU’s straits are a little more dire.

Yes, they beat Michigan State in Columbus and have the same amount of overall wins, but the Spartans have them bested in several tournament-relevant categories. They have two a better conference record (7-5 to 5-8), RPI (a flawed stat but still 41 to 63) and strength of schedule (16th to 32nd).

Neither team has what you would call a “signature win” — Minnesota and Michigan are nice, but don’t blow the doors off — making this head-to-head match up even more important.

Buckeyes To Know

NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at Maryland Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Per usual, Thad Matta’s team isn’t very deep but does feature some fun players, the best of which is probably forward Jae’Sean Tate.

Tate’s weird. He isn’t much of a leaper and, at 6’4”, is undersized for a forward, especially one who doesn’t stretch the floor (20.7% 3PT — and, naturally, a backbreaker against MSU). Despite the flaws, Tate leads his team in scoring (14.3 ppg) and is second in rebounding (6.1 rpg). How? Who knows.

It will be interesting to see how Izzo tries to defend him. Miles Bridges would have a sizable height and athletic edge, but that would leave Eron Harris or Alvin Ellis to guard the 6’8” Marc Loving. Reverse those roles and Tate would hold a huge advantage on the glass, an area where MSU already struggles. It’s a bit of a Catch-22, but Bridges will probably draw Tate on both ends of the floor.

The winner of this match up will go a long ways towards determining who wins the game.

How Does MSU Match Up

NCAA Basketball: Iowa at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

A lot of this depends on the status of JaQuan Lyle’s ankle. The sophomore’s injury caused him to miss this weekend’s game against Maryland. Considering that he is one of the four Buckeyes averaging over 30 minutes per game, is must have been a fairly serious ankle issue to sideline him.

With or without his normal burst, he causes issues for Michigan State’s guards with his superior size. The first time these teams met the 6’5” Lyle went 8-of-12 from the field and 5-of-7 from three-point range, shooting over Tum Tum Nairn and Cassius Winston with relative ease. If he can still get legs under his shot, this problem doesn’t really go away, but it does cut into his ability to get to the basket, thus helping those same vertically-challenged defenders.

The other guy who gave MSU fits last time out was center Trevor Thompson. A true 7-footer, Thompson was one of the first big men to really challenge Nick Ward on both ends of the floor. Defensively he made it really difficult for Ward to get position and shoot from his preferred close range, and offensively he was able to get boards and finish easily.

Ward has since faced other true big men and is playing on his home court as opposed to in playing for the first time in his home state of Ohio. With the lights a little less bright, hopefully he can more closely resemble the Puddin we all know and love.


NCAA Basketball: Iowa at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

My record of predictions continues to be horrible.

Football season was a disaster, and it seems that every time I pick against this basketball team, they win, but when I pick them, they lose. (This is the type of deep, insightful analysis you come to TOC for, I know.) With that in mind I’m going to kick karma in the face and say that Michigan State wins this one.

As we said last time, if OSU is going to win, their starters are going to have to play damn near perfect ball, which they struggle to do on the road. They’ve won exactly one Big Ten road contest and it was a one-point squeaker against Nebraska. Thompson will be a nightmare cover again and MSU still doesn’t have great defensive match ups for Kam Williams or Loving, but I’m giving Izzo the benefit of the doubt.

The first time, the Buckeyes were desperate for a conference win while the Spartans played like starstruck freshmen and still almost won. I don’t see that happening again, especially at the Breslin with Lyle at less than 100% .

MSU 74 OSU 68