Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, February 13, 2015 at 12:00 PM
It’s very clear right now that the Wisconsin Badgers are going to win the Big 10 barring injuries. They lead the field by a few games…and are playing much better than everyone else. Even if they slump…they’re not going to slump so much that they fall to second place.
But, the coveted runner-up spot (important in Big 10 tournament seeding and Big Dance consideration) is very much up for grabs. Traditional powers Ohio State and Michigan State are in the thick of the battle as they get ready to square off in an early Saturday tipoff on ESPN. Note that this will be their ONLY meeting of the regular season.
Here’s a look at the top of the Big 10 standings entering the weekend…
Ohio State 8-4
Michigan State 7-4
Ohio State would be in great shape to close out strong for the #2 spot with a road victory. Michigan State is obviously knocking at the door with a win because they’d only have a four-spot in the loss column. But, note how precarious a top four spot is given all the teams just below Sparty. A loss here for either team would put them in danger of falling out of the top four bye spots in the conference tournament. And, somebody’s got to lose!
In the past, Ohio State/Michigan State might have been a battle of Top 10 teams. Certainly it would be a battle of ranked teams. This year…both the Buckeyes and Spartans have fallen off past norms. Amazingly, this is #23 Ohio State at unranked Michigan State! Saturday’s early telecast will give handicappers a great chance to see what’s gone wrong so far for both programs, while trying to see what might go right from this point forward. Coach Tom Izzo’s team is famous for closing strong even in their most mediocre seasons. Will that start Saturday?
Let’s see what JIM HURLEY’S key indicator stats have to say about the renewal of this classic Big 10 rivalry…
Adjusted Offensive Efficiency
Ohio State: 113.1 per 100 possessions (#22 in the nation)
Michigan State: 110.6 per 100 possessions (#36 in the nation)
With more than 300 teams listed in the Ken Pomeroy database, those rankings look pretty good. But, as you consider the short list of teams who are likely to matter in March…they seem less impressive. Ohio State gets the nod. Both have shown enough inconsistency in important games that you can’t be sure of anything. Ohio State is clearly the more explosive of the two.
Adjusted Defensive Efficiency
Ohio State: 93.0 per 100 possessions (#31 in the nation)
Michigan State: 94.1 per 100 possessions (#45 in the nation)
Both teams are a little worse on defense…though the ranking difference remain 14 spots apart. Ohio State is equally better on both sides of the floor. Both teams are more about offense than defense, and those defensive issues will keep them from scaring Wisconsin or going deep in the Dance unless they get hot offensively. Once again, edge to the Buckeyes.
Ohio State: #73
Michigan State: #169
Ohio State plays with a lot more pace. That would have given them a big edge if this game were Columbus. They could have pulled Sparty out of its comfort zone. Instead, MSU will try to slow down the Buckeyes in front of a rabid crowd. State is fairly average-pace wise…but that’s going to feel like playing Wisconsin to the faster Buckeyes. A chance here for the Spartans to make up for their deficits in the stat categories.
Against the Spread
Ohio State: 12-11-1
Michigan State: 12-12
The market caught on to these teams fairly early. Michigan State lost a non-conference game at home to Texas Southern (!). That sure got everyone’s attention. Ohio State has covered four of its last five…but none of those high spots was a ROAD game against a TOP team. The Buckeyes are impressing when stepping down in class. Tough call!
It’s too early to say for this Friday “early look” whether or not Ohio State/Michigan State will be art of the Saturday package for NETWORK clients. JIM HURLEY leaves no stone unturned on the huge Saturday schedules. He’ll find you some BIG, JUICY WINNERS! (Among the other games he’s looking at: North Carolina at Pittsburgh, Baylor at Kansas, NC State at Louisville, Duke at Syracuse, and Villanova at Butler.)
You can purchase the final word for Saturday right here at the website with your credit card in the hours leading up to first tip. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-888-777-4155 during normal business hours Friday, or Saturday morning before the action begins.
Back with you early Saturday for GameDay coverage of defending National Champion UCONN at SMU. Here’s what’s ahead after that in the NOTEBOOK…
Saturday: College Basketball GameDay…Connecticut at SMU in the AAC
Sunday: NBA State of the League at the All-Star Break
Monday: College Basketball Preview…Kansas at West Virginia in the Big 12
Tuesday: College Basketball Preview… LSU at Texas A&M in the SEC
Wednesday: College Basketball Preview…North Carolina at Duke in the ACC
Thursday: College Basketball Preview…Temple at SMU in the AAC
You’re starting to feel the excitement, aren’t you? You know March Madness is going to be here very soon…and you’re remembering how great it is to win big money in this exciting sport. Jump on board as JIM HURLEY drives you down THE ROAD TO MARCH MADNESS!
Be sure to follow:
Jim Hurley on twitter @vsm_hurley
Vegas-Sports-Masters on twitter @vsmasters