Ohio State to Hang Tough vs Top-Ranked Spartans

Rainman M.

Sunday, January 7, 2018 1:14 PM UTC

Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018 1:14 PM UTC

Ohio State (12-4) hosts No.1 Michigan State (15-1) at 4:30 ET. The Spartans are favored by 8.5 points. Can they achieve their sixth straight 30+ point victory?

Free NCAAB Pick: Ohio State +8.5
Best Line Offered: Heritage
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Michigan State Spartans vs. Ohio State Buckeyes

Michigan State returns 4 of its starters from last season. Miles Bridges' decision to stay with his teammates shocked many. The NBA-caliber small forward leads MSU with 16.9 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. He is explosive to the basket but needs to work on attacking the rim more often and settling for threes less frequently.

Point guard Cassius Winston exemplifies the Spartans’ teamwork on offense. With his good vision, he leads the team with 7.3 assists per game. He ranks 5th in assist rate and 8th in three-point percentage. But Winston is notorious for his weak defense. Senior 'Tum Tum' Nairn is a reliable backup, ranking 128th in assist rate.

Shooting guards Matt McQuaid and Josh Langford are, like Winston, dangerous from three. McQuaid ranks 463rd and Langford 115th in three-point completion.

Freshman center Jaren Jackson is MSU’s only new center. He is 6’11 but ranks 214th in three-point completion. He also excels at drawing fouls and completes 81.5% of his free throws.

Jackson and power forward Nick Ward contribute the most physicality in the Spartan interior. Ward, like Jackson, ranks in the top-50 in block percentage. He draws the second-highest proportion of fouls and is the highest-ranked offensive rebounder. He is second on the team with 7.4 rebounds per game and achieves 1.7 blocks per game. Despite playing relatively few minutes, he has taken most of Michigan State’s shots and is extremely efficient inside, ranking 14th in two-point completion.

Ohio State doesn’t possess nearly the kind of depth as Michigan State but isn’t short on talent.

Point guard CJ Jackson is assuming much more responsibility this season. He ranks 171st in assist rate, benefits from drawing many fouls because of his 81.1% free throw completion, and ranks 202nd in three-point completion. He is second on the team with 13.5 points per game. He needs to reduce his giveaways, but benefits from facing a Spartan defense that ranks 248th in turnover percentage.

Small forward Jae’Sean Tate is third on the team with 12.9 points per game but completes 13.2% more of his shots than Jackson. He limits himself to scoring inside the arc and ranks 215th in two-point completion percentage.

Power forward Keita Bates-Diop leads OSU with 19.3 and 8.9 rebounds per game. He has scored 20+ points in ten straight games. Bates-Diop is OSU’s most physical figure inside, ranking 31st in defensive rebounding percentage and 134th in block percentage. He draws many fouls and ranks 285th in free throw completion percentage. He is an efficient scorer inside, ranking 250th in two-point completion. Center Kaleb Wesson ranks 75th in offensive rebounding percentage.

The Verdict

This is a prime spot to fade Michigan State. The Spartans have failed to cover their last four road games after covering at home. Their last and only true road test this season was a sloppy 62-52 win at Rutgers. MSU clicked on all cylinders in their home win against Maryland. But they enter a hostile environment in which they will miss the crowd support that energizes them at home. They are 10-2 ATS at home but 1-3 ATS away from home on our NCAAB picks. The Spartans have completed over 57% of their shots in their past five games, all at home and all covers. But away from home their three-point and field goal completion rankings drop over thirty ranks, meaning that they’ll likely fail to exploit OSU’s 310th-ranked perimeter defense.

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