The Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals continued Friday night with a matchup between 7th seeded Ohio State and 2nd seeded Michigan State. For the third time since February 23rd, the Buckeyes failed to stay competitive with the Spartans and fell 81-54.
The Buckeyes played the Spartans tight in the first half and trailed 33-26 at the break. A 14-2 run by Michigan State to start the second half all but ended Ohio State's upset bid. The Spartans lead had ballooned to 19 in the first 5 minutes of the second half and it only grew from there.
Let's take a look at the takeaways from Friday's quarterfinal.
1. Ohio State can't figure out how to stop Denzel Valentine
After he torched the Buckeyes in the first two meetings this season, there was no game plan stopping Denzel Valentine. The Big Ten Player of the year proved it once again as he posted 19 points, 9 rebounds, and 8 assists.
It's not just good enough to limit Valentine's scoring. The senior even had an off shooting night as he shot 6-15 and just 3-10 from deep. The Lansing native still finds plenty of ways to impact the game as the whole Spartan offense runs through him.
Valentine's 8 assists broke down like this: 4 led to dunks, 3 to three pointers, and 1 for a layup. The open looks Valentine creates for his teammates are the reason he has to keep adding shelves to his trophy case. In total, the senior accounted for 38 of the Spartans 81 points.
2. Michigan State is the team to beat in the Big Ten
In the preview to this game, I talked about Michigan State being the favorite, despite Indiana's outright Big Ten championship. After Michigan took the Hoosiers out earlier Friday, the Spartans are unquestionably the team to beat. Tom Izzo's squad has a tendency to play their best ball late in the season, and this year is no different.
The Spartans held Ohio State to just 1-11 from deep and forced 14 turnovers. Meanwhile, Michigan State has plenty of ways to score on the offensive side of the ball, starting with Valentine. Four of the five Spartan starters were in double figures Friday night, and the 5th (Bryn Forbes) had 9 points.
Michigan State has ways to score all over the court. They can use Matt Costello and Deyonta Davis down low, while Forbes and Eron Harris are both capable of knocking down shots from deep. When Valentine has the ball in his hands he has legitimate offensive threats all around him.
3. Ohio State Will Not Make the NCAA Tournament
Ohio State finished their Big Ten regular season schedule with an 11-7 record. Usually, this is good enough for a Big Ten team to make the NCAA Tournament. The Buckeyes, however, just did not compile enough quality wins to make the tournament.
Ohio State's tournament resume basically hangs on 2 or 3 good wins. The Buckeyes beat Kentucky early in the season. At that time the Wildcats weren't playing their best basketball as they were in the middle of a 7 game stretch where they went just 4-3. The Buckeyes also beat Iowa late in the season while the Hawkeyes were in the midst of a 2-6 8 game span. Other than a win against Michigan, the Buckeyes don't have any other wins against tournament teams.
On the other side, the Buckeyes lost to UT-Arlington and Louisiana Tech early in the season. Thad Matta needed one more signature win to prove to the committee his team was for real. Friday night was the perfect opportunity on a big stage and the Buckeyes laid an egg. A final 20-13 record just isn't going to cut it when you don't have any signature wins.
Friday night, Michigan State showed why they are in the running to be a #1 seed come Selection Sunday and Ohio State showed why they will be on the outside looking in. The Buckeyes just don't have enough scoring or depth to hang with top teams. Meanwhile, Michigan State's roster is littered with talented offensive threats surrounding a player of the year candidate in Denzel Valentine.
Michigan State will face the winner of Maryland and Nebraska on Saturday 25 minutes after the conclusion of the Michigan, Purdue game that starts at 1pm.