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BTT Preview: (7) Michigan State vs. (10) Iowa

Gametime---- 3:30 CT

TV---- ESPN2

The 2011 Big Ten Tournament begins today, but this year Tom Izzo and the Michigan State Spartans are playing from the start. MSU (17-14, 9-9 Big Ten) is the 7-seed in the conference tournament this year, something a little different from the last two years, in which Sparty received a first round bye. The Spartans, who have had an up and down season, will face an Iowa team far away from the bubble but still feeling good after ending the regular season with an upset over Purdue.

While it would take a magical and improbable tournament run for the Hawkeyes (11-19, 4-14 Big Ten) to make it to the Big Dance, they should come out tomorrow with some renewed energy after their last win. Meanwhile, Michigan State is projected to be in the NCAA's at the moment, despite only being four games over .500. This is mostly due to a strong SOS and a great deal of parity in the Big Ten this year.

Both teams traded blow-out wins at home over the regular season, and now the two teams meet with (possibly) the whole season on the line. If Iowa loses, they will be done for the year. As for Michigan State, a loss would severely hurt their chances at making the tournament; strength of schedule and RPI are great, and a soft bubble gives the Spartans even more help, but they should consider today's game to be a must-win.

Prediction: I think Iowa will compete with the Spartans for at least the first half, possibly more than that, but ultimately Michigan State should pull away to avoid the crushing upset. I'm calling this a must-win for the fighting Izzo's, and he usually manages to rally his boys for those type of games. I'm calling a 65-57 Spartan win.

[No Stat Breakdown this time, sorry. I spent my Wednesday evening at the Sprint Center for the Mizzou/ Texas Tech Big 12 Tourney game. Even sports nerds need sleep, and it is currently 1 AM as I type this.]