No. 16 Michigan State looks for a third straight Big Ten regular-season title when it hosts No. 19 Ohio State on Sunday. The Spartans (21-9, 13-6) sit a half-game behind Wisconsin for the top spot in the league, so a victory would give Tom Izzo’s squad a share of the crown, though the Badgers have already clinched the top seed in next week’s Big Ten tournament.
Ohio State (21-9, 11-8) has won four straight games coming into this one and is currently tied for fifth in the league with Iowa. The Buckeyes could move up to a fourth-place tie if they beat Michigan State and Iowa tops Illinois later Sunday, with tiebreakers determining which of those three teams gets the double-bye that comes with being the No. 4 seed in the Big Ten tournament.
Michigan State is a 6.5-point favorite playing at home, with the over/under set at 140.
Surging At The Right Time
Ohio State started the Big Ten season with a terrible run of losses, going 2-6 against conference foes to put itself in quite a hole. But the Buckeyes have put it together of late, with three of the four straight wins coming into this one coming against ranked opponents, including a home victory over No. 23 Illinois on Thursday.
A big key for Ohio State in this one will be the play of forward Kaleb Wesson, who leads the team with 14.2 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. Wesson is a bit undersized inside, and Michigan State has a lengthy front line that leads the Big Ten in blocks per game (5.0). Wesson has extended his offensive game out to the three-point line, and that might be his best bet against the Spartans.
Duane Washington Jr. (11.3 points) and Andre Wesson (9.2 points) will also be key with their shooting ability, as Ohio State is tops in the Big Ten in three-point percentage (.374) and second in the Big Ten in three-pointers per game (8.5). One X-factor could be freshman E.J. Lidell, who had his first career double-double against Illinois, matching his career high with 17 points and setting a new career standard with 11 rebounds.
It is going to be an emotional day at the Breslin Center Sunday, with Cassius Winston among four seniors on the Spartans’ roster being honored. The Big Ten’s all-time assist leader is one of the most beloved Spartans, and he’ll be looking to deliver another title with a win in this one.
Winston leads Michigan State in scoring (18.3 points), assists (5.9) and steals (1.2) as well as clutch baskets, though he hasn’t been the only one scoring of late. Junior forward Xavier Tillman Sr. is a beast in the paint on both ends, leading the team with 10.4 rebounds and 2.1 blocks to go along with his 13.7 points and 3.0 assists per game.
Freshman guard Rocket Watts has been heating up, averaging 17.3 points over the last three games and giving the Spartans the third scorer they’ve been looking for all season long. Sophomore forward Aaron Henry is also capable of filling up the boxscore in a number of ways, averaging 9.9 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.9 assists.
Spartans Win Home Finale
Ohio State is playing very good right now and is a solid defensive team. But Winston not winning his final home game just doesn’t seem like a possibility. The Spartans are looking like the team that everyone had No. 1 in the preseason, and they send out Winston and the rest of the seniors in style. I’m taking Michigan State -6.5 to win another Big Ten title.