It was only last week that the Buckeyes and the Spartans met on the hardwood and Ohio State avenged a loss from earlier in the season. But with a Big Ten conference championship and a potential top seed in the NCAA Tournament on the line, neither team considers the score to be settled.
Expect plenty of emotion and offense when Ohio State and Michigan State meet in Indianapolis Sunday afternoon. The Buckeyes are the defending Big Ten tournament champions, but the Spartans are looking to regain their perch atop what has proven to be one of the most dominant conferences in college basketball.
The marquee matchup is fittingly the last game scheduled before the NCAA Selection Show later Sunday night on CBS. The Buckeyes and Spartans likely will be in the top eight seeds and will receive a No. 1 or No. 2 ranking, but the region and seed can mean a lot going forward in the tournament.
But the immediate matter at hand is a conference tournament championship that will crown one team the king of the league, at least for this year. Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State tied for the regular season title, but the conference championship matters more. The only thing the regular season title guarantees is a trip to the NIT.
Somewhere between five and seven Big Ten teams will make the tournament, as Indiana and Wisconsin join the Buckeyes, Wolverines and Spartans in the top 15 in national rankings. Purdue should also make the tournament, but Northwestern is considered an unlikely dancer after a first-round Big Ten tournament loss to Minnesota.
More so than earlier in the season, Thad Matta will expect Jared Sullinger and William Buford to be at the top of their game, along with rising standout Deshaun Thomas. Thomas, Buford and Sullinger, with some significant help from Aaron Craft, have carried this team so far, but that leadership matters so much more as February turns into March and mayhem turns into madness. Legends are remembered by the championships they win, and the Buckeyes have a chance to lock up a title this afternoon.
Michigan State is led by senior forward Draymond Green, who has had a magical season so far. But the Spartans are a balanced team that can pick up the slack if the Buckeyes shut down Green's inside presence.
At the end of the day, both of these teams will go to the NCAA Tournament and will be contenders for a national crown, but one team gets to wear the shinier shoes to the Big Dance.
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