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Despite Ohio State win/Michigan State loss, Sparty still sets up better

By Matt Norlander | College Basketball Writer

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Ohio State earned itself a really nice, thrilling, Senior Day 69-67 home win over Michigan State Sunday.

Aaron Craft made a diving play on a loose ball following a missed 3-pointer by Adreian Payne, and that seemed to seal it. The Buckeyes got into the conversation again for a bye in the Big Ten tournament by nature of the win. (Then lost out when Nebraska clinched the No. 4 seed after beating Wisconsin.) Thad Matta's team is now 23-8 and avoids a bad three-game skid to end the season, something the Bucks haven't ever done under Matta.

Conversely, for the first time since 2006, Michigan State ended its regular season conference slate by dropping three of four games. A lot of people selling Spartans stock, not learning the lessons from history. That is: Don't doubt Tom Izzo in the postseason.

Between these two, I'll still very much take Sparty in the big picture, both in the Big Ten tournament and the NCAAs. (Requisite disclaimer: So long as Gary Harris' ankle isn't more than mildly sprained.) Ohio State looked like it was cooking on offense today. The Buckeyes nearly cracked 70 points, something they still haven't done in almost a month. Point is, the team shot 47 percent from the field and looked like it was Creighton, despite shooting went 4 for 10 from 3-point range.

C (USATSI)
Keith Appling, left, defends a driving Lenzelle Smith. (USATSI)

That's how low the bar is for OSU's offense, which entering the day was 127th in efficiency in the nation. It's tough to watch. That defense is grit without fear and it's got to be hell to play against. But Ohio State cannot kill you with offense. It remains a one-sided team that will be felled in the Big Ten and NCAA due to its struggle to score one point per possession. Only twice this Big Ten season did the group crack 50 percent from the field, one of those games coming against Iowa, which is to defense what Ohio State is to offense.

I'm not here to bury Ohio State, just to keep the outlook grounded. It's more about preferring Michigan State's chances going forward. Either team making the Final Four? I'm not taking that bet. But MSU's the more complete team, the team that's still seemingly falling apart -- physically and mentally -- yet only lost by two on the road to an NCAA Tournament-bound league foe. And it's now 23-8 and 12-6 in the league.

We're down on MSU because the national title stopped being reasonable about two weeks back. From a different lens, this team enters the Big Ten tournament with a lot of outside doubters. I think that sets up mighty fine. Wisconsin and Michigan are good. But it doesn't feel like there's a favorite. That usually when we get the best Big Ten brackets anyway.

 
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