A Big Early Season (And Late Night) Match-Up

Tonight the Ohio State men’s basketball team plays Michigan State at East Lansing. The Big Ten season is still very young — the Buckeyes and Spartans have each played only two conference games — but this game is shaping up to be a big one in a conference that many people consider to be the premier basketball conference in the country.

Ohio State is ranked third in the country, whereas Michigan State is ranked fifth. Both teams have senior leadership. Both teams are experienced in playing big games and know how to win them. Both teams have great coaches. Both teams have some excellent players. For Michigan State, it’s Keith Appling, Gary Harris, Branden Dawson, and the unguardable Adreian Payne, who always seems to make a crucial three-point shot or put-back basket. For Ohio State, it’s Aaron Craft, LaQuinton Ross, and Lenzelle Smith, Jr. Both teams are deep. Michigan State plays great offense; Ohio State plays great defense.

It’s a wonderful match-up, all the way up and down the lineups. Who wouldn’t want to see Aaron Craft and Keith Appling go head to head, or watch the defense-oriented Buckeyes try to figure out a way to guard Adreian Payne? Who wouldn’t want to see whether the Buckeyes can avenge the football team’s bitter loss to the Spartans in the Big Ten championship game? You have to give Michigan State, which has played a much tougher schedule than the Buckeyes and is playing at home, the clear edge, but this game should tell the Buckeye Nation a lot about how good this team might actually be.

So why in blue blazes does the game have to start at 9 p.m.? C’mon, Big Ten — how about having some pity on us working folks who need to get up early tomorrow?

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Handling The Sunday Curse

This afternoon the basketball Buckeyes will play the Michigan State Spartans at the Schott.  I’ll watch it, but I’m kind of dreading it.

IMG_3110Lately, Sundays have not been kind to the Buckeyes.  Two Sundays ago, the number one-ranked Indiana Hoosiers came to the Schott and beat the Buckeyes soundly, 81-68.  Then, last Sunday, Ohio State got embarrassed in Madison by the Wisconsin Badgers, 71-49.  The Indiana game was bad enough, because losing on your home floor, even to the top-ranked team in the country, is always painful, but the loss to Wisconsin was especially disturbing.  In that game, the characteristic traits of a Thad Matta team — tough defense, hustle, grit, and a don’t quit attitude in the face of adversity — were wholly absent.  The Buckeyes didn’t show up and didn’t look like the same team we’d seen earlier in the season.

Fortunately, the college basketball season is long, and there are opportunities for redemption.  The Buckeyes bounced back with a win over Minnesota earlier this week, and now they face another huge challenge in Michigan State.  The Spartans are vying with Indiana for the Big Ten lead, and you know they will be crashing the boards like Tom Izzo-coached teams always do.  Led by excellent point guard Keith Appling, the Spartans have a deep lineup of hard-nosed and talented players.  Sam Thompson, above, and his teammates will need to play well to beat them, and they could use some help from the Buckeye Nut House fans, too.

But . . . it’s a Sunday game.  Let’s hope that, this Sunday, the Buckeyes don’t play like they think Sunday should be a day of rest.

Battling For The Big Ten Lead

Tonight the Michigan State Spartans come to the Schott to take on the Ohio State Buckeyes.  The two teams stand atop the Big Ten, and the winner will have a leg up on winning the Big Ten regular season championship.

This should be a classic match-up.  Michigan State is coached by Tom Izzo, whose teams have dominated the Big Ten for years, and is led by Draymond Green, the do-everything senior who is a very strong Big Ten Player of the Year candidate.  Green is one of those players every fan would love to have on their favorite team.  He works hard, leads by example, hustles, shoots well from the outside, can post up and rebound, will scrap for the ball and get the crucial garbage bucket, and is a great passer.  What’s not to like?

Michigan State has other weapons, too.  Keith Appling is a quick, capable point guard, Brandon Wood is a solid shooting guard, and Branden Dawson is one of the best freshman in the conference.  The Spartans also have lots of big bodies — in the form of Derrick Nix, Adreian Payne, and Green — to throw at Jared Sullinger.

The Buckeyes struggled on defense in their game against Purdue, but were able to outscore the Boilermakers.  I’m hoping that Buckeyes coach Thad Matta has figured out how to defend against the high screen Purdue used so effectively, because we can be sure that the crafty Izzo will have the Spartans ready to test that proposition.  How the Buckeyes respond after their disappointing defensive effort against Purdue will tell us a lot about this team and its prospects.