No. 6 Michigan State vs. Ohio State
2/23/2016, Columbus, Ohio
9 PM, ESPN
Update: Jae’Sean Tate underwent an MRI on his shoulder and the results are concerning as it looks like Tate might not play again this season. This is a huge blow to OSU’s playoff chances.
A little over a week from now, it will be March. Or as it’s known in the East Lansing area, Tom Izzo’s month. Izzo’s teams have always had a knack for peaking around NCAA tournament time and this year isn’t much different. After losing three straight Big 10 games, Michigan State has won 6 of the past 7 games with 5 of those wins being by 12 or more points.
The Spartans will head to Columbus on Tuesday night to face the Buckeyes for the first time this year, who are a spot ahead of the Spartans in the Big 10 Standings. Although Ohio State is 4th in the Big 10, all of their conference wins have come against teams in the bottom-half of the standings. Ohio State’s final three games will be against Michigan State (twice) and Iowa, who are both AP top 10 teams.
The story of the year for the Spartans is Denzel Valentine. In the past 8 games, Valentine has made a strong campaign for National Player of the Year. He has averaged 23 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists per game in that time span.
Ohio State is a young team without a true star. In fact, OSU only has one upperclassmen who has played this season. Jae’Sean Tate, Marc Loving, and Keita Bates-Diop have all played valuable minutes this season, but none have them have standout numbers.
X Factor: Bryn Forbes
Forbes is one of the nation’s best perimeter shooters. He shoots 48% from three and averages 14 points a game. However, in MSU’s 5 losses this season, he only averages 5 points. If Ohio State allows him to get open looks, OSU will lose by double-digits. However, if they can play a physical defense while staying within the rules, Forbes may have some trouble. If Ohio State can do that, they may have a chance to beat MSU.
Key Stat: Rebounding
MSU is the best team in the Big 10 when it comes to rebounding. However, OSU is not far behind as they rank 3rd in the Big 10 in rebounds. Whichever team grabs more boards in this game is most likely going to win the game. Matt Costello and Deyonta Davis will be critical in MSU’s success in the battle of the boards as Bates-Diop and Tate will look to keep Ohio State in the game by grabbing as many rebounds as possible.
-Tum-Tum Nairn Jr. has seen limited action in the past few games after missing more than a month due to planter fasciitis. He will probably see less than 5 minutes tonight.
-Kenny Goins is continuing to improve after injuring his knee against Indiana just over a week ago. It will be until at least early March that he sees any action though.
Ohio State will play a defensive-minded game and hold the Spartans below their PPG average. However, Ohio State’s offense will not be able to figure out MSU’s defense. Expect another 20 points and 10 assists from Valentine as he continues to solidify his case for the best player in the nation.
MSU 72, Ohio State 59
MSU class of 2018