(photo courtesy Columbus Dispatch)

*ichigan State is coming to Value City Arena tomorrow (Sunday January 15, 2017) for a tip-off scheduled for 1:38 p.m. and will be played on CBS Sports.

Two quick points reference the Spartans: 1) they just crushed Minnesota on Wednesday January 11th 65-47. (Note of interest: The Buckeyes lost to the Golden Gophers last Sunday (the 8th) 78-68). And 2nd *ichigan State isn’t ranked, an oddity indeed.

The Buckeyes are 10-7 overall, 0-4 in the Big Ten, listed at 13th (out of 14) in League play. *ichigan State is 12-6 overall, 4-1 in the Big Ten, listed at 1st in League play.

Thus far this season the Spartans, in their six losses, have arguably lost to some pretty good teams: Arizona, Kentucky, Baylor, and Duke. There was the Penn State loss too, their lone defeat within the League so far, a glitch, but all the same displaying some of the deficiencies that exist with this team.

THE SPARTANS:

Nick Ward is the star here – at least as I see it. The 6-8 Freshman from the Buckeyes own backyard – Gahanna, Ohio – leads the team with an average per game of 13.6 points, and 6.7 rebounds. In assists and steals Cassius Winston is the leader with 5.0 & 5.9 respectfully.

These Spartans certainly are not the typical Tom Izzo team. But, in that statement alone appears a contradiction: Watch what you say! They are scrappy and can play basketball.

The game plan for the Spartans is to repeat what they did against the Golden Gophers of Minnesota. Energy early on is primary. In their last three outings – January 4th they fell behind 6-0 against Rutgers, though eventually withstanding nicely and allowing Rutgers to lick their wounds in a 93-65 loss. On Saturday January 7th they fell behind early to Penn State 12-4, and with a couple needed rallies, fell short, losing 72-63. But in their last outing against Minnesota they took an early 11-4 pace which road them to a victory (65-47). The idea behind Izzo’s game plan is to “NOT” far behind early. It has been a tool of his “magnificent” teaching throughout his ‘Hall-of-fame” career.

In recent games Coach Izzo has experimented with junior guard Lourawls “Tum-Tum” Nairn, Jr. and freshmen Cassius Winston on the floor at the same time. His idea – which is proving to be successful – is that both players have essentially different dynamics on both sides of the ball. Nairn’s speed is a weapon for quick scoring drives while his defensive depth gets him upfront with time to spare. Winston has a knack to drive and score through traffic – never blinking, and willing to take a foul, and a drop to the wood. He also has a natural instinct to feed the ball off to Eron Harris, Alvin Ellis III, and Matt McQuaid – all of whom all excellent perimeter shooters.

THE BUCKEYES:

Jae’Sean Tate continues to lead the Buckeyes in scoring with a 14.2 points per game average. Trevor Thompson continues to lead the team with a rebounding average of 9.1 per game. And as we know there are five Buckeyes averaging in double figures per game: Tate (14.2) Lyle (11.7) Loving (11.2) Thompson (10.7) and Williams (10.4).

In my opinion what are hurting the Buckeyes at the moment are the health issues of Keita Bates-Diop. Keita’s numbers, on the face, aren’t super – 9.7 points per game, 5.2 rebounds per game, 0.2 steals per game, and 0.4 blocks per game. But now with Keita out for the season the Buckeyes must find another player to step into the role of spunk and unnoticeable contributions. Keita is the fire of The Ohio State University Men’s Basketball Program. I, honestly, see a little Charles Oakley, John Starks, and Anthony Mason, in him. I see this kid NBA-bound. And, perhaps, he may not be a “star” in The League; but he will have a 10-12 year career up there.

This hurts the Buckeyes …. Let’s tell it like it is!

So – what is it the final conclusion?

The Buckeye’s starting lineup features size – the shortest is redshirt-junior guard Kam Williams at 6-2. This gives the Buckeyes the advantage in the ‘playground’ rough & tough summary. As previously mentioned – each of the starting five for the Buckeyes are averaging in double figures in points and as a team they are shooting .469 from the field.

Ward for the Spartans is a 6-8 freshmen – being matched against 7-0 Trevor Thompson. The Buckeyes is 8-2 in games that they out-rebounded their opponents. MSU will be playing small ball. As I pointed out in two guards, good ones at that, will be on the court together often for Izzo. They will hold a 3-point shooting advantage against the Buckeyes. They are shooting .366 from behind the arc and are out-shooting opponents from long range in every game they have played – including Kentucky, Baylor, and Duke.
The Buckeyes aren’t done yet. They clearly need this win. Do understand that three of their last four games have come at the hands of ranked opponents: #20 Purdue, # 24 Minnesota, and #`8 Wisconsin.
Thus far, they have played the hardest schedule within the League of the Big Ten.
I won’t make a prediction. I’d rather rumble through the heretic route of believing dreams and numbers of coincidence and play them on my Powerball or Mega cards.
We know that the Buckeyes need this win. First, because it will stop the slide and prevent them from being 0-5 in the League, but also, it would be a huge win that will lift them to where they need to be. The loss of Bates-Diop is big. But if they shake it off, focus, they can improve and win games. This Buckeye’s team is better than they look.