Four Thoughts on Ohio State vs. Michigan StatePosted by jnowak on February 13th, 2012
It was a Big Ten clash of the titans, filled with big storylines and consequence, and it proved to be a telling game. Michigan State positioned itself as a legitimate threat to Ohio State‘s hopes for winning the conference title, which were once perceived to be all but a sure thing before the Spartans’ 58-48 upset win in Columbus. Here are a few things to take away from Saturday evening’s game:
- Implications For the Big Ten Race — At the beginning of the year, Ohio State was deemed the clear-cut favorite to take home the conference hardware and, despite a shaky start to Big Ten play, the Buckeyes had really started to emerge as the favorite. But Michigan State has been far more competitive this year than many expected and is now right in the thick of it. It’s easy to envision this conference race coming down to the wire, when Ohio State travels to East Lansing for Michigan State’s Senior Day on March 4. But for now, with the two clubs tied atop the conference standings (one game ahead of Wisconsin and Michigan), they’ve each got to protect the throne. Things get no easier for the Spartans, who now host Wisconsin before traveling to Purdue and Minnesota. The Buckeyes also have two road games coming up, going to Michigan and at home versus Minnesota. Both scenarios leave plenty of room for the Wolverines and Badgers to creep back into the mix, so things remain as up for grabs as ever.
- The Big Ten Player of the Year Race — This was pretty much a two-horse race entering Saturday night with Draymond Green and Jared Sullinger ahead of the pack, leaving the two head-to-head meetings as a great opportunity for both players to prove their mettle. Sullinger played all 40 minutes Saturday, going for 17 points and 16 rebounds, but Michigan State has interior depth to throw at him, and the Spartans’ guards also helped pester him in the paint to force the big man into turning the ball over 10 times (his previous season high was three). Green, meanwhile, was not entirely as effective as he’s been lately, but still managed to contribute 12 points and nine boards in 34 minutes while also hitting some key shots down the stretch. Another meeting will give us a great second look, but Michigan State’s unexpected success might make Green the frontrunner for the award at this point.
- William Buford’s No-Show — Buckeyes supporters have been clamoring for the senior, who is on pace to go down as one of the most accomplished players in program history, to play with a bit more fortitude and consistency. After going off for 29 against Purdue, he fell back well below his average Saturday as Brandon Wood and Branden Dawson held Buford to a quiet four points on 2-for-12 shooting. He logged 36 minutes but was 0-for-2 from three-point range in his first single-digit scoring performance since January 7.
- Keith Appling’s Trouble at the Point — It was a major question mark for Michigan State entering the season — who would handle the point guard duties, and if he could do it well — that Appling appeared to have answered for a time. But his performance has since dipped in Big Ten play, with his shooting numbers down and his assist-to-turnover ratio was awful on Saturday night. He chipped in 14 points, but had a season-high seven turnovers (and zero assists) in battling Ohio State’s Aaron Craft. The Buckeyes’ defense is tough, but Michigan State can’t afford many more performances like that from Appling if the Spartans are to make a run at the conference title.