For the third time this basketball season, and the second time in less than a week, Michigan State and Ohio State will face off against one another - this time in a survive and advance situation at the United Center in Chicago.
The Big Ten season - and college basketball on a broader scale - has been marked by chaos, parity, and uncertainty. This tournament has been no different up to this point. On Wednesday, both lower seeds won their opening round matchups, with Ohio State taking down Wisconsin, and the lowly Golden Gophers eliminating Nebraska. On Thursday, the chaos continued with Rutgers opening the day with a win over Michigan and Ohio State notching another win against Iowa, showing that the #FranFade is alive and well in 2023.
The Buckeyes have been one of the most disappointing teams in the league all season, never quite hitting their stride and looking mentally soft. This has changed in recent weeks, as Ohio State took down Maryland and Illinois and lost a game at the Breslin Center last Saturday that was tailor-made for them to fold early in the first half. They didn’t fold, and hit shots when they needed to in order to keep it competitive into the final few minutes of play. Without their leading big man, Zed Key, the Buckeyes were still able to minimize the damage from MSU’s bigs, while Brice Sensabaugh and Bruce Thornton both cleared the 20 point mark. Ohio State didn’t quit in a road game on Senior Day.
Michigan State is entering the postseason on a red hot offensive streak, scoring 80+ points in four consecutive games, including last Saturday’s victory over the Buckeyes. Tyson Walker is having a tremendous senior season for the Spartans, as he has become the clutch player this team had lacked for much of the year.This was perhaps best illustrated by his basket with five minutes to play in last week’s game that stopped Ohio State’s momentum cold, and gave MSU the two possession lead that it never lost again. AJ Hoggard, Jaden Akins, and Joey Hauser all contributed in major ways offensively, each scoring double digit points against the Buckeyes.
MSU exited the Breslin Center last weekend unsure of their standing in the Big Ten Tournament, as the rest of the conference would decide things on Sunday, and all the pieces fell in place for the Spartans - they earned the fourth seed and a double bye, giving them nearly a full week off. With that time off, the question has to be whether the hot offensive run can continue.
The pieces may be falling into piece yet again for the Spartans, as Ohio State will be playing their third game in three days, as they were on the floor for the first batch of games on Wednesday. After two days of tight games, will Ohio State be able to play to their full potential? They have nothing to lose, everything to gain, and talent that doesn’t match their lowly thirteen seed. MSU has beaten this team twice already, in one defensive struggle and one shooting clinic, and you have to think they’ll be able to add a third tally in the win column Friday afternoon as long as they play competently and execute against what’s sure to be a tired team.