Ohio State vs. Michigan State in the Big Ten Tournament: 3 keys to a Buckeye victory
Time for the next challenge. They only get bigger from here on out. After a season of mediocrity, the Buckeyes are looking to make their mark in the Big Ten Tournament. Things started off right by winning a game against Indiana that more than likely got them into the NCAA Tournament.
Now comes an uphill climb against a No. 1 seeded Michigan State team that pulled away for convincing victories the first two times these teams matched up.
We’ve already previewed the game, complete with prediction, but here’s three keys to a victory against the Spartans.
Next … Michigan State’s transition game
Get back on defense … hard
Part of the culture of Michigan State, and interwoven in its offense is the transition game. Not only will the Spartans run off of missed baskets, but they’ll inbound the ball and push it up court on a secondary break to try and catch teams napping.
And there are cheap baskets the Spartans get nearly every game. If this game comes down to a few possessions, having a conscious effort to sprint back down the court after made baskets and rebounds is a must. You can’t give up easy baskets on the other end. It kills rallies, turns momentum and could be the difference in point swings that mean the difference between winning and losing.
It’s a mindset though, and it has to be a part of the defensive game plan from the jump.
Next … Go get the ball
Rebounding, rebounding, rebounding
You know what else is a part of the Spartan culture? That’s right, rebounding. Head coach Tom Izzo takes pride in his team’s toughness, especially when it comes to going after rebounds. He has his team practice what he believes is one of the main markers for winning a game, even resorting to having the team put football pads on.
Michigan State likes to limit other teams’ extra possessions by locking up defensive boards, and will crash the glass on the offensive end to try and steal extra shots on its own end.
To keep the Spartans off the boards, every member of the Ohio State defense has to locate his man, box out, and then go after the ball hard.
Next … Neutralize the middle
Wesson has to have a defensive presence on the blocks
It seems like no matter who mans the paint for the Spartans, there’s solid and effective play. Gahanna product Nick Ward was a man-child down there, but after he went out Xavier Tillman has stepped in and provided a force down on the blocks as well. It looks like Ward will be available today, but expect a mix of both.
Kaleb Wesson has to go toe-to-toe down in the paint. Not only does he need to score, but he needs to hold the baskets to a premium down low. The Spartans have perhaps the best point-guard in America with Cassius Winston, but it likes to work things inside-out. Taking away the post game, makes the Spartans a little less dangerous.
You have to try and take away something from the Spartans, and the low post game is the better matchup to do that in this one.