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Looking Ahead: Michigan State vs. Ohio State in the B1G Tournament Finals

The Michigan State Spartans have moved on to the championship game of the Big Ten Tournament. After watching Ohio State dismantle Michigan, and the regular season ending loss to the Buckeyes still fresh in MSU’s mind, the Spartans won’t be taking OSU lightly. Here are a few keys to Sunday’s game that should be in the forefront of your mind while watching.

Born to run: Michigan State wants to get the ball out in transition. I’m not exactly treading new ground here. Anybody who has followed the Spartans even casually knows that. However, against the Buckeyes this is going to be especially important. While both teams will be playing for the third day in a row, OSU’s tendency to use a very short bench could be a problem for them when they face MSU. If the Spartans can force Ohio State to run up and down the floor for 40 minutes, the deeper Michigan State bench should give them a decided advantage in the final minutes of what could be very close contest. If the Spartans allow the Buckeyes to turn the game into a half court contest they’ll be playing into Thad Matta’s hands. If they force the Buckeye starters to start sucking wind by the middle of the second half the Spartans will be in good shape.

Crash the boards: Michigan got their tails handed to them by Ohio State in large part because they couldn’t rebound over the more aggressive Buckeyes. That isn’t something Michigan State will let happen. With players like Draymond Green, Derrick Nix, and a bevy of scrappy rebounding guards the Spartans should be able to at least hold their own against the Buckeyes underneath. However, it remains to be seen how MSU will be able to hold up without Branden Dawson. His athleticism was a huge asset on the boards. Although his loss hasn’t been felt too strongly yet in the Big Ten tournament, neither Iowa or Wisconsin have the strength the Buckeyes have underneath.

Take Care: Michigan State, and especially Draymond Green, turned the ball over far too often against Wisconsin. Luckily for the Spartans,Wisconsin wasn’t able to capitalize on those mistakes as often as an offensively gifted team like Ohio State will be able to. With pesky defenders like Aaron Craft, MSU will certainly have their hands full trying to protect the ball on Sunday. Entry passes into the post will have to be crisp, and dangerous cross court passes will have to be few and far between. I’m sure Tom Izzo knows this and will be impressing that upon his team all the way up until game time. The question is, will they be able to follow through?

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Team Defense: Ohio State isn’t like Wisconsin. Nearly every player they put on the floor will be able to hurt you offensively from numerous spots on the floor. Every player on the floor will have to be on their game if the Spartans want to slow down the Buckeyes’ scoring machine. MSU can’t fall asleep on players around the arc, can’t allow easy entry passes into Sullinger, and can’t lag off on the kick out passes to Buford. It is important that every player be on their assignment all game, and that the lines of communication don’t break down. Adreian Payne was great at this against Iowa, as he communicated with his teammates on defense better than he ever had before. He lagged back into old habits against Wisconsin, especially in the first half, and it cost him playing time. He needs to communicate like he did against Iowa for the Spartans to have their best defensive effort, and give them the best shot to win a Big Ten Tournament title on Sunday.

Those are my keys to a championship for Michigan State on Sunday. Remember, for the best analysis, news and information keep checking throughout the Big Ten Tournament Championship Game.