The Big Ten Tournament is well underway and the upsets and craziness have not disappointed. Five upsets have occurred in six games. The biggest surprise may be Ohio State, who came into the tournament as a 13 seed and are set to take on the Michigan State Spartans today in the Quarterfinals.
Michigan State enters the tournament after some craziness in the final weekend of the regular season earned them as the four seed and recipients of a double-bye in this tournament.
That means the suddenly hot Buckeyes are on their third game in three days, while the Spartans are fresh.
Game Time: Friday, March 10th, at 2:30pm (US East Coast Time)
Please Note: This time is ESTIMATED. Formally, the game starts 25 minutes after the conclusion of Purdue vs. Rutgers that begins at 12 noon US East Coast time.
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Some basics to sound like a pro:
Michigan State has morphed from a plodding defensive team to an offensive juggernaut at the close of the season. The long awaited offensive explosion has been fueled by red hot team wide three point shooting and some improved play from key players.
AJ Hoggard has found a new gear, running the offense with confidence and a swagger. A highlight of the junior point guard’s play was the Nebraska win where he dished out 14 assists.
Point guards can only tally assists when teammates are scoring - and Hoggard has had lots of help in that area. Tyson Walker and Joey Hauser have continued to lead the team in shooting, while Jaden Akins has evolved into a more assertive and game changing version of himself.
Akins has shot well all season, but in the last two weeks of the regular season he has found a new assertive personality that has forced defenses to deal with at least three high volume scorers on the floor at once.
This offensive confidence has led Michigan State to score 80+ points in each of its last four games. This includes a regular season ending win over Ohio State 84-78 at Breslin.
The one concern for the Spartans seems to be their defense. Once the core strength of this year’s squad, all of a sudden opposing teams are racking up points - particularly three pointers at a surprising rate. Ohio State capitalized on this in their loss, the question will be can MSU find its lock down defensive approach and continue its scoring ways.
Ohio State was legitimately awful for most of Big Ten Play. In a league with intense parity, Ohio State was one of two teams that seemed like automatic wins for most opponents. Both of those teams - Ohio State and Minnesota - have won games at the Big Ten Tournament.
Ohio State will be playing its third game in three days today. They manhandled Wisconsin, and played a back and forth battle against Iowa.
Regardless of the overall regular season results, it’s clear Ohio State has finally figured out how to win, winning four out of their last five. Their lone loss was to Michigan State in the regular season finale.
If Ohio State can keep their athletic aggression going for a third day in a row, they could provide a problem for Michigan State. The size and strength of the Buckeyes guards seemed to give Michigan State’s backcourt - particularly Tyson Walker - difficulty for long stretches of the regular season finale game.
Ohio State does not have a huge interior lineup. In theory, this should mean the Spartans are able to go big and get a slight advantage (considering the Spartans have extremely limited offensive capabilities in its front court), or should be able to match Ohio State with a small ball lineup featuring Hauser and Hall at the four and five.
In the regular season finale, the Spartans struggled to maximize this size matchup against the Buckeyes. Malik Hall battled back spasms and looked visibly slowed in the last matchup. A healthier Hall could mean the Spartans find a way to exploit the Buckeyes size.
The concern for the Spartans is if this game becomes a dog fight where Ohio State exploits Michigan State’s recent struggles on defense.
BBD: 82-68 Michigan State Win