Preview & Prediction: By Blake Hofstad
#11 Michigan State (11-2, 2-0) is one of only two remaining undefeated teams in Big Ten conference play. That perfect record will get a test when Ohio State (10-2, 1-1) comes to East Lansing. The Buckeyes were handed their second loss of the year when they faced Minnesota in the Barn. A date at Breslin Center shouldn’t prove to be any easier of a task. Michigan State hasn’t lost in the building since March of 2006. An interesting battle should ensue in the frontcourt, with Ohio State star Evan Turner squaring off with top Spartan Raymar Morgan. Their points and rebounds are almost identical, with Turner holding the slightest edge in both. Whoever wins this internal battle gives their team a good chance to win the game. Tom Izzo’s squad features a revamped offense this year, much of that due to the emergence of dynamo point guard Kalin Lucas. Perhaps the best ball handler in the conference, Lucas’ assist to turnover ratio is better than 5 to 1, tops in the nation with a minimum of 3 assists per game.
The Spartans rely on depth to get the job done. A lot of Big Ten teams are deep, but Michigan State has eight players who would start at most schools. They are led by Morgan and Lucas. The effectiveness of Lucas is accentuated by the role of his backup, Travis Walton. Walton is one of the top backup points in the country, and just how crucial he is to the team’s success is evident in his 27.2 minutes per game, second only to Lucas on Michigan State. The deep Spartan frontcourt includes Morgan, as well as Goran Suton, Marquise Gray and super freshman Delvon Roe. Durrell Summers can also pick up the rebounding load from the 2-guard position. Rarely will a team outrebound State; they are a top 25 rebounding team, and are tops in the Big Ten. If the big men of Izzo’s crew can have their way with Ohio State’s forwards, they will win this game.
Ohio State has been a team that has played a big role in the revitalization of the Big Ten this season. With out of conference wins over Miami and Notre Dame, they solidified their position on the national level. However, with recent losses to West Virginia and Minnesota, they might be slipping off the perch they worked hard to reach. A turnaround game is necessary, and there aren’t many places better to get one than the Breslin Center. In order to do that, they must have big games from Dallas Lauderdale and BJ Mullens. Turner has been spectacular so far, he has reached double figures all but once. To counter Michigan State’s rebounding prowess, Lauderdale and Mullens have to be big. Mullens proved influential in the win over Notre Dame. If he can emulate that 11 point, 7 rebound performance, or best it, Thad Matta will have to be happy with his production. Lauderdale hasn’t really stepped up in a big game so far, so this is his chance to earn his stripes. The ever inconsistent Jon Diebler has started to even out, and in a good way. Through two conference games he is averaging 21 points a game.
The battle will be won in the post, and Michigan State has too much depth for Ohio State to make much of a dent. Home court advantage is a huge plus for the Spartans, as they rarely lose at home. The streak won’t end Tuesday night.
Winner: Michigan State Margin: 7-10 points
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About Evan Dorey
Evan Dorey - Game Previews
A recent university graduate from Markham, Ontario, who loves analyzing the statistics of sports in general, and college basketball in particular.