The Ohio State Buckeyes are traveling to East Lansing today to face off with the the Spartans of Michigan State. Both teams have 1 loss in Big Ten play, but with 4 wins in the conference, Michigan State is tied with Michigan for second place while Ohio State, with only 3 wins in conference, is tied with Indiana for fourth place. With the parity that exists in the Big Ten this year, no game is easy, and every win is a must. Expect this game to be a hard-fought battle by both teams that goes down to the wire.
The Spartans are always a tough team to play at home. They are currently sitting on an 11 game home win streak, and they have no intention of letting the Buckeyes come into their house and end that streak. The real excitement of this game, though, could come in watching the individual match-ups on the floor rather than the overall team play.
When it comes to scoring, Ohio State fans look to Deshaun Thomas who's averaging 22 points per game this season. But against this tough Spartan team, Thomas may not be enough – especially if he's not having a particularly good day. While Thomas leads the Big Ten in scoring, there are no other Buckeyes listed in the top 30 in the Big Ten. Freshman guard Gary Harris will be the one to watch for the Spartans. Harris is averaging 14.1 PPG, which is a far cry from Thomas, but Harris has help. Senior center Derrick Nix and sophomore guard Brandon Dawson are both averaging 11.2 PPG. This combination could be tricky for Ohio State since these baskets are coming from inside the paint as well as from the perimeter.
Buckeye Lenzelle Smith, Jr. is 3rd in rebounding and is averaging 8.3 per game. Along with Smith is Deshaun Thomas, who is 15th in the Big Ten with 5.8 per game. They will be battling Adreian Payne, Branden Dawson and Derrick Nix who are 13th, 15th, and 20th respectively in the Big Ten, and are 6'10", 6'6" and 6'9" respectively. Amir Williams will need to get his height involved in this battle.
The real matchup in this game is going to be between Keith Appling for the Spartans and Aaron Craft for Ohio State. Both players are 6-1 junior guards who have incredible speed, vision, anticipation and game sense. Both lead the Big Ten in steals. Appling averages 2.4 per game, while Craft averages 2.3. Appling is second in the Big Ten in assists, averaging 5.6 per game, while Craft is 6th, averaging 4.3 per game. These two players are both quick and have good game vision. More importantly, they both like the challenge of the 1-on-1, so expect both of these guys to be trying to prove which one is better. The biggest difference in the game could happen in this matchup.
When you add the noise from the IZZONE into the mix, this becomes a tough game for the Buckeyes. Their ability to take away the win will be fueled by their focus and determination.
The game starts at 6:00 and will be carried live on ESPN.
Tags: Aaron Craft, Amir Williams, Buckeyes, Deshaun Thomas, Lenzelle Smith Jr., NCAA, Ohio State