Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, March 8, 2014 at 5:00 PM
There’s been some serious debate about whether or not Michigan State or Ohio State will matter very much in this year’s Big Dance. Earlier this season, that would have been blasphemy. Ohio State got off to a great start and was very highly regarded in the rankings. Michigan State was part of multiple high profile TV games early in the season, and has a great track record when it comes to winning in March.
Lately though…Ohio State has seemingly fallen apart, while Michigan State has mixed great games with lemons. It was Michigan who won the Big Ten, having already clinched the trophy before the final weekend. Ohio State has stumbled to a 9-8 record in league play heading into Sunday’s finale, falling behind surprising NEBRASKA in the conference standings. Michigan State is playing for a 13-5 finish…which is solid but not “superpower” caliber.
Actually, the debate about these teams lingers over to the computer ratings. Even college basketball guru Ken Pomeroy and USA Today computer whiz Jeff Sagarin don’t agree on which is the better team. Here were the rankings entering weekend action…
Michigan State: #18 in Pomeroy, #11 in Sagarin
Ohio State: #12 in Pomeroy, #13 in Sagarin
Pomeroy says Ohio State is better, and he inexplicably has them as #12 in the country even though they’re 9-8 in the Big 10! Sagarin has Michigan State as the slightly superior side. Note that Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology at ESPN currently has Michigan State projected for a #4 seed, with Ohio State down at #6. Is Ohio State the #12 or #13 best team in the country? Or, are they a mediocre #6 seed that might be looking at a first round upset. Remember that Wisconsin of the Big 10 was a #4 seed last year that lost to #13 Ole Miss in their first game. This Ohio State team is playing worse right now than that Wisconsin team was.
Offensive Rank (Adjusted for Schedule)
Michigan State: #17
Ohio State: #117
Ohio State’s problems have been coming on offense. They go through long stretches where they seem to have no idea how to run halfcourt sets. Sure, a ranking of #117 is adequate nationally with about 350 teams being measured. But, when you get to Dance Caliber teams…it’s HORRIBLE. Ohio State is likely to really struggle against any good defense if they don’t get things figured out quick. Michigan State has a reputation for physical play…but they’ve shown off an efficient offense this season for the most part.
Defensive Rank (Adjusted for Schedule)
Michigan State: #38
Ohio State: #2
This is why Ohio State can’t be written off as a threat in March. They have the second best defense in the nation when you adjust for pace and strength of schedule according to Pomeroy’s methodology. Michigan State is actually better on offense than defense this year. And, that #38 ranking isn’t scary when you’re talking only about Dance threats. If Michigan State is destined to reach the Sweet 16, they’ll have one of the softest defenses in the group.
Michigan State: #202
Ohio State: #255
Both teams are slower than average. Ohio State may be hurting their offensive rhythm by playing so slowly. Again, they just aren’t very good out of the halfcourt. Neither team will be at a disadvantage pace-wise in a head-to-head meeting. Neither wants to play racehorse basketball. Both will be in their comfort zone.
Against the Spread
Michigan State: 16-11-2
Ohio State: 15-14
As disappointing as Ohio State has been in league action, they still have an ATS record slightly above .500. That’s a money-loser once the vigorish is factored in. Barely. Michigan State has a winning ATS record despite getting a lot of early season publicity. That can work against some teams…but really didn’t work against too many powers this season. Good teams are covering spreads.
JIM HURLEY will be looking very closely at this game, along with Wisconsin/Nebraska, Saint Louis/Massachusetts, Syracuse/Florida State, and Virginia/Maryland on the Sunday card. You can purchase the final word for Sunday right here at the website with your credit card in the hours leading up to first tip. We may have something in the NBA for you too, given the nine-game schedule that includes interesting matchups like Portland/Houston, Indiana/Dallas, and Phoenix/Golden State.
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Conference tournament previews resume Monday, and will continue through midweek as the MADNESS really gets rolling in college basketball. Be sure you’re with us EVERY DAY so you know what’s really going on during this critical month in Las Vegas betting. And, link up with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK for BIG, JUICY WINNERS!