This is what you hope for. That you play through the entire season, and at the end, have a chance to raise a banner. Michigan State has the chance to do that on Sunday. The Spartans can raise a Big Ten Championship banner for the third year in a row with a win over Ohio State on senior day in East Lansing. It will be no easy task, but winning championships never are.
So let’s get into the matchup with the Buckeyes (4:30 p.m. EST at the Breslin Center).
Ohio State comes in with a 21-9 record, same as MSU. They are 11-8 in Big Ten play, placing them in a three-way tie for fifth place.
They are the number eighth ranked team in Kenpom, one spot behind the Spartans. Like MSU they are fairly balanced, checking in as the number 15 offense and number 17 defense per Kenpom.
Also like MSU, they come in riding a four game winning streak, including wins over Maryland, Michigan, and Illinois. However, all of those wins did come at home, with the lone road victory in that stretch over Nebraska.
On offense the Buckeyes are a solid, but not overly impressive team. They are 56th nationally in eFG percent, 66th in offensive rebounding, and 72nd in free throw rate.
Their eFG percent is helped by being a good three-point shooting team, 19th best in the country at 37.4 percent. Inside the arc however, they are right around the national average at 49.6 percent. This is one of the reasons why OSU ranks 331st in the country in percentage of points from two-pointers at 43.7 percent.
While they aren’t great at getting to the free throw line, they are above average, and when they do they convert at a 74.9 percent rate.
One area where the Buckeyes have struggled is with turnovers. Their turnover rate is over 19 percent, and ranks 207th overall. Most of these are unforced turnovers, as they are 321st nationally in non-steal turnover percentage. So it isn’t that they are prone to being pick-pocketed as much as they are careless.
On the defensive side the numbers are pretty consistent. OSU is 30th in defensive eFG percent, in large part thanks to great interior defense. The Buckeyes allow the 11th lowest two-point shooting percentage in the country. On the perimeter, they give up slightly higher than the national average on three-point shots.
OSU is 62nd in defensive rebounding, and 101st in opponent free throw rate. They are an above average shot blocking team, but not great.
Much like the Spartans, OSU doesn’t come up with a lot of steals. They rank 293rd in defensive steal rate at 7.5 percent, although their opponents do tend to turn the ball over on their own at an above average rate.
Players to Watch
Kaleb Wesson is the man for Ohio State, as he goes, they go. The 6-foot-9 junior is averaging 14.2 points, 9.4 rebounds, two assists, and one block per game. He’s shooting 46.4 percent from two, and an impressive 43.3 percent from three. That is no small sample size either as Wesson has attempted 104 threes, second most on the team.
Wesson also is adept at drawing fouls and getting to the free throw line, where he shoots over 72 percent.
Sophomore guard Duane Washington Jr. is second on the team in scoring at 11.3 points per game. Washington makes an average of two three-pointers per game, and leads the team in attempts and makes from beyond the arc. He shoots just under 40 percent from deep.
The elder Wesson brother, Andre, is averaging 9.2 points and four rebounds per game. He is also a threat from outside, shooting 42.6 percent from three on 101 attempts. He also is an even 50 percent inside the arc and over 81 percent at the charity stripe.
Junior point guard CJ Walker leads the Bucks with 3.5 assists per game and also chips in 8.6 points per contest. Walker is not nearly the shooting threat, at just over 32 percent from three, but he is a good free throw shooter and is almost 48 percent t on twos. He also leads the team with 1.3 steals per game.
Obviously defending the perimeter is going to be important in this game. Over the last nine games, teams are averaging eight made three-pointers per game against MSU. Now that comes on a pretty high volume of shots, with teams taking over 25 threes per game, so the shooting percentage is pretty low overall. But OSU can really shoot it from outside, so MSU is going to need to deny them quality looks, or you could see something similar to the first half of the Penn State game.
The bottom line is that these are two very good teams according to the numbers, and nothing is a given. That being said, Cassius Winston on senior day with a chance to hang a Big Ten title banner is not someone I’m going to bet against.