After an impressive performance against the No. 9 seed Indiana Hoosiers in the Second Round of the Big Ten Tournament, the No. 8 seeded Ohio State Buckeyes will move on to the quarterfinals to take on the No. 1 seeded Michigan State Spartans at 12:30 p.m. ET/11:30 p.m. CT on Friday. The game will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network.
This will be a tough test for Ohio State (19-13, 8-12) as Michigan State (25-6, 16-4) is the favorite to win it all.
Let’s take a look at the match up.
In what was a must-win game for the Buckeyes in order to keep their NCAA Tournament hopes alive, they came through in a big way. They defeated the Indiana Hoosiers 79-75 to advance to the quarterfinals. They went up 63-43 at the under-8 media timeout in the second half after a string of made baskets, but Indiana got as close as 72-69 and made the Buckeyes sweat it out.
In the contest against the Hoosiers, the Buckeye’s senior guards C.J. Jackson and Keyshawn Woods steeped up. Woods led the way with 18 points on 9-for-13 shooting and Jackson added 17. Sophomore sensation Kaleb Wesson returned from suspension with a solid 17 point and 13 rebound performance while dealing with the Hoosiers big men.
The Buckeyes also did a good job of controlling Indiana stars Romeo Langford and Juwan Morgan, holding them to 21 points on 8-for-20 shooting. They will have another tough task as a group defensively against the Spartans as the dynamic duo of Cassius Winston and Nick Ward will be on the floor.
During the regular season, Ohio State and Michigan State faced off twice. The first meeting took place to start off the new year on Jan. 8 and — at the time — was a top-15 match up, shockingly enough. Yes, I know it is hard to imagine that this Buckeyes team was top-15 in the country two months into the season, but they were.
The then-No. 8 Spartans defeated the then-No. 14 Buckeyes 86-77. Winston led the way for the Spartans with 25 points and Kaleb Wesson had one of his best games of the year for the Buckeyes, putting up 25 and eight rebounds while shooting 60 percent from the field. The Buckeyes kept the game close but ultimately could not get enough stops in crunch time, and the Spartans pulled away for the nine-point victory. The Spartans shot an impressive 54.3 percent from the field, while Ohio State shot 43.5 percent.
The next match up came more recently on Feb. 17, and was much less entertaining. The Spartans won 62-44 and Ohio State forgot how to play basketball in the back portion of the second half. Matt McQuaid had 14 points for the Spartans while Kaleb Wesson led the way again for the Buckeyes with 12 points and nine rebounds.
Even though the Buckeyes lost both of these match-ups, these were both winnable games in the second half. In the first meeting, Ohio State was only down by three at the last media timeout, and in the second meeting it was a 42-42 tie at the under-8 timeout. The Spartans then finished both games on major runs and pulled away for the victories.
Going into this one, the Buckeyes are led by Kaleb Wesson who is averaging 14.6 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. He is so important to this team’s success, and you could clearly see that when he was suspended for three games. For the Spartans, they are led by the Big Ten Player of the Year in Cassius Winston, who is averaging 19.0 points and 7.6 assists per game. Winston is one of the best point guards — and players — in the country, and is a tough match up for anyone to face.
For the Buckeyes to pull off the upset and help solidify their spot in the NCAA tournament, they will need to play one of their best games of the season. A lingering question mark for the Buckeyes has been their consistency throughout games. They will need a full team effort to stop the powerhouse Spartans that are playing for a possible one seed in the Big Dance.
A big question will be the health of Nick Ward. He has not played since the second Ohio State match up on Feb. 17, missing time with a hairline fracture in his hand. While he is expected to play in the Spartans’ B1G Tournament opener, if there is any doubt about his health, it would probably be wise to keep him on the bench in order to give him the best chance of being ready for the NCAA Tournament next week. Tom Izzo said that he will play, but we will have to wait and see come Friday afternoon.
This game will be competitive on the neutral floor in Chicago, but ultimately Michigan State just has too many weapons on the offensive side.