Time: Approximately 405 ET
Coming into the Big Ten Tournament, there were three or four teams in the conference that had to win a couple of games to solidify or get themselves into the NCAA Tournament. One of these teams was the seventh seeded Michigan State Spartans. It has a very up and down season for the Spartans who started the year ranked #2 in the nation; however with injuries and the dismissal of guards Chris Allen and Korie Lucious, Michigan State has to fight and batttle their way to the NCAA Tournament bid. After a 9-9 season in the Big 10, Michigan State toughed out a 66-61 win over the (10) Iowa Hawkeyes and on a fantastic performance from start to finish against the (2) Purdue Boilermakers, winning 74-56, and probably punching their ticket to the Tournament.
A senior-laden Penn State Nittany Lions team had tournament aspirations earlier in the year, but after a underwhelming nonconference season, including a home loss to Maine, many people wrote them off for a possible tournament birth, which would be their first since their run to the Sweet 16 in 2001. However, the Nittany Lions responded by getting a couple of crucial home conferences wins, over Michigan State, Illinois, and Wisconsin, finishing in a four way tie for 4th in the conference with Michigan, Illinois, and Michigan State. They arrived in Indianapolis with a lot of work to do to make the tournament, as was evidenced by Joe Lunardi having Penn State as the 7th team out of the dance. In the first round, they got a tough 61-55 over (11) Indiana and had a huge quarterfinal against (3) Wisconsin. Even though both teams are very, very slow (Penn State is ranked 340/345 in tempo, Wisconsin is dead last according to Kenpom), no one could have expected the offensive misery in the quarterfinal, with Penn State winning 36-33. No matter how ugly the game was to a neutral, it was a beautiful win for the Nittany Lions, getting them one step closer to dancing. That win, however, may not be enough to get them into the Tournament and a semifinal loss to Tom Izzo's Spartans would leave them sweating on Selection Sunday,
The semifinal will be the rubber match of the season, with both teams winning on each other's home court. Penn State won the first game, winning 66-62 in State College on January 8. The Nittany Lions had a very well rounded and balanced attack, with four players in double figures; the star performer for that contest was Jeff Brooks, who had a double-double, pouring in 17 points while grabbing 12 rebounds. Michigan State won the return, 75-57 in the Breslin Center on February 8th. Kalin Lucas scored 24 for the Spartans, and he has been blistering Big Ten competition ever since; the Spartans outrebounded Penn State by 12, with 10 offensive boards and got 15 points each from Delvon Roe and Draymond Green.
Prediction: Both teams had huge wins that may have saved their season last night but have to quickly shift focus to todays game with a very quick turnaround. The key to the game will be point guard play and rebounding. Spartans PG Kalin Lucas has been on a roll and is very, very difficult to defend; Penn State PG Talor Battle had a very rough game last night against Wisconsin, shooting 3-18 from the floor but can take over any game. Michigan State will hit the boards with Green and Roe, get some easy fast break points, and Lucas will be too much, sending the Spartans to the final in a typical Izzo March performance.
Michigan State 67, Penn State 59.