Michigan State Preview

OSU LogoWhat: Ohio State vs. Michigan State
Where: The Breslin Center, East Lansing, MI
When: Jan. 7th, 2014 @ 9:00 PM (ESPN)

NOW the Big Ten season can begin.

Ohio State’s schedule up to this point has been fair-to-middling up to this point. Solid wins against Marquette and Notre Dame adorn Ohio State’s schedule but it could be said Michigan State is a little more battle tested. They got off to a fast start, beating Kentucky and a decent Texas team but they also lost to an average (for them) North Carolina team. Michigan State has struggled early in games (down at the half against Texas and, more recently, Penn State) and despite their relative experience they really don’t have an identity.

Shannon Scott's defenseOhio State, on the other hand, does have an identity. It begins and ends with their defense, which according to KenPom is the #1 AdjD (Adjusted defensive efficiency – An estimate of the defensive efficiency (points allowed per 100 possessions) a team would have against the average D-I offense.) in the nation. Led by Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott’s nagging defense, Ohio State’s defense has kept this team in games while the offense has struggled to find consistency.

Ohio States #1 defense will be going up against Michigan State’s offense which KenPom ranks as the 27th best. The trio of Craft, Scott and LZJ will go against MSU’s talented back court of Keith Appling, Gary Harris and Travis Trice (a member of the “I wish he was a Buckeye” All Stars). Harris and Appling are the focal point but I think Trice’s defense and athleticism could be the difference. Harris is hurt and I imagine Craft will keep a close eye on Appling. These match-ups are key but may end up playing each other to a stalemate.

Michigan State’s ace in the hole against Ohio State has always been Adrian Payne. Payne has always given Ohio State trouble. Seriously. It seems like he’s troubled the Buckeyes for like seven years. Is this guy a PhD student or something? He’s a stretch four that can play away from the basket and with his back to it. Amir Williams has struggled to defend him in the past and simply doesn’t have the footwork to guard him outside-in. Payne can get past him which is probably going to lead to foul trouble for Amir. If they have to go small, like they did against Purdue, I don’t like the Payne/Ross match-up.

LaQuinton Ross has been steadily improving through the first fifteen games, but he’s going to need another big night against the Spartans. He will cause match-up problems against Michigan State, and if their recent bouts of foul trouble continue, Ross may be able to make a living taking the ball to the hoop.

The back court match-ups may even up but I like our chances with Ross.

Michigan State is experienced. They’ve faced better competition (although they do bear a blemish on their record). Ohio is still inconsistent offense. The Breslin Brats make for a hostile environment for the visiting team. I think Ohio State has a chance, but it’s going to need to shoot the ball well and get a good game from its bench, particularly from Marc Loving, whose athleticism and relative newness should cause headaches for The Spartans to defend. Either way, this is going to be a great game, a clash of the class of the Big Ten. The victor grabs an early edge in the B1G Conference Race.

My head says MSU: 68 OSU: 63
My heart says OSU: 70 MSU: 66