MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS (25-7)
vs. OHIO STATE BUCKEYES (24-7)
Big Ten Conference Tournament - Semifinals
United Center – Chicago, IL
Tip-off: Saturday, 4:05 p.m. ET
Line: Ohio State -1.5, Total: 124
A pair of top-10 teams clash on Saturday afternoon in Chicago when No. 8 Michigan State and No. 10 Ohio State play in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals.
Both teams overcame sluggish starts to their postseasons on Friday, as Michigan State trailed 30-20 to Iowa at halftime before scoring 39 points in the second half to win by three, 59-56. Ohio State led 24-23 over Nebraska late in the first half before going on a monster 30-5 run and winning 71-50. These schools will be meeting for the third time this season, as each team won on its home court. MSU eked out a 59-56 win in East Lansing on Jan. 19 but OSU returned the favor with a 68-60 win in Columbus on Feb. 24. The Spartans enter this contest on a three-game win streak to improve to 25-8 SU (76%) in March since 2009. The Buckeyes have won six in a row (5-1 ATS), holding their opponents to 60 points or less in all six victories.
Which top-10 team will secure a berth in Sunday's Big Ten Championship? For the answer, connect to College Basketball Best Bets for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. The experts are a collective 75% ATS (21-7-1) in the past two days and are 65% ATS (53-28-2) in the past seven days, with StatFox Gary going 71% ATS (10-4), StatFox Brian posting a 68% ATS mark (15-7-1), StatFox Dave also at 68% ATS (13-6) and StatFox Scott winning 58% ATS (15-11-1) since March 9. Gary has a 66% ATS record (21-11) since Feb. 27 to improve to 56% ATS (108-86-4) for college basketball Best Bets this season. Dave's 6-0 ATS run in the past two days moves him to 62% ATS (24-15) since Feb. 28, and 53% ATS (170-154-5) for the season.
Michigan State has not been a great team outside of East Lansing this season, going 8-6 SU (6-7-1 ATS). The club has also struggled to score since the loss in Columbus, averaging just 61.0 PPG over the past five games. But this team knows how to defend, surrendering a mere 58.9 PPG in the past 10 games. PF Adreian Payne was the hero on Friday with 18 points and 10 rebounds (6 offensive), all team highs. He has played pretty well in this season series versus OSU too, averaging 13.0 PPG and 10.0 RPG. Payne has also been rolling late in the season with 14.1 PPG and 10.4 RPG in the past seven games. The backcourt of PG Keith Appling and SG Gary Harris also played well offensively against Iowa, scoring 13 points apiece, but combined for just one assist and six turnovers. This could be a big problem against such a great perimeter defense. Appling, who has 16.0 PPG in his past three games, was a big reason the Spartans beat OSU on Jan. 19 with a well-rounded 15 points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals (and also four turnovers). But Appling he scored just three points on 1-of-6 FG in the Feb. 24 loss to the Buckeyes. Harris, who has 14.5 PPG during an eight-game streak of double-figure scoring, has averaged 11.0 PPG on 9-of-19 FG in the season series. PF Derrick Nix was quiet on Friday with just seven points on 2-of-6 shooting, but he's averaged 10.0 PPG in the two meetings this season. Swingman Branden Dawson had seven boards and three steals against Iowa, but failed to surpass eight points for the seventh straight contest.
Ohio State has been pounding teams during its six-game win streak by an average score of 68 to 54, with the only non-cover during this run coming in a 10-point win at 10.5-point underdog Northwestern. The Buckeyes are 8-5 SU (7-6 ATS) in non-home games this season, but since losing at Michigan State, they have gone 5-2 SU in road/neutral games, including a win at Indiana 11 days ago. Per usual, it was PF Deshaun Thomas carrying the team with 19 points and nine boards in Friday's win over Nebraska. He kept his club in the game in East Lansing on Jan. 19 with 28 points (6-of-11 threes) and seven rebounds, but made just 4-of-16 shots in the Feb. 24 win. PG Aaron Craft scored just five points in the January meeting with MSU, but was the player of the game in the February rematch with 21 points and six assists. He tied a season high with eight assists on Friday and now has 5.5 APG over his past six contests. SG Lenzelle Smith Jr. has not found his stroke so far in March with just 6.3 PPG on 8-of-24 FG (1-of-6 threes) in the three games. He's also shot poorly against the Spartans this season with 11 points on 4-of-12 shooting in the two games combined. SF Sam Thompson hadn't scored in double-digits in any of his team's five straight wins before exploding on Friday for a career-best 19 points on 8-of-9 FG (3-of-4 threes).