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Big Ten Saturday Preview: #2 Michigan State looks to fend off the Buckeyes

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The Spartans take on Ohio State in Saturday's Big Ten game of the day

Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports
It's crazy to think that Saturday marks the close of the Big Ten season for many teams across the conference. The Big Ten Tourney is now just around the corner and teams are making a final push to solidify their placement in Indianapolis this next week. Saturday's games feature the #2 team in the nation, one of the country's most indecisive bubble teams and possibly the worst Big Ten team of the 21st century (oh what fun!). Here's a breakdown of Saturday's conference action.

Game of the Day

#2 Michigan State Spartans vs. Ohio State Buckeyes - Noon ET (ESPN)

The Spartans are red hot right now, and one of the main reasons has been the play of senior Bryn Forbes. In MSU's game against Rutgers this week, Forbes went off for eleven three-pointers, setting a Big Ten record for most made threes in a single game. Michigan State has won five straight, and depending on how the rest of the conference shakes out, they could be as high as a #2 seed in the Big Ten tourney.

In the previous meeting between these two teams, Forbes hit seven three's en route to a 81-62 win for the Spartans in Columbus. Denzel Valentine added 17 points, but Tom Izzo didn't believe his team was all that great.

"Trust me, that was not a very good performance by us," he said after the game. "It was a very good performance by (Ohio State)."

From an outsider's perspective, if that wasn't a great game from MSU, then Ohio State is in for some major trouble if the Spartans can get things right. After all, it is still very possible that they could snag a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament. However, Ohio State is playing for something here. ESPN.com's Joe Lunardi currently has the Buckeyes listed as one of his "First Four Out" teams for Selection Sunday, and a win over Michigan State would be absolutely huge as to getting them off the bubble.

The player that I expect to step up big for Ohio State is Marc Loving. As the lone upperclassman on this squad, Loving is going to have to lead from the front this game, especially with Jae'Sean Tate (whom OSU head coach Thad Matta calls  "the heart and soul of this basketball team") gone for the season recovering from shoulder surgery. Loving scored 19 in the last matchup and will need to be hitting from beyond the arc yet again if Ohio State wants any hope of staying in this game.

This should be a fun one to watch. ESPN will be there with the opening game of the day, and this classic Big Ten matchup should not disappoint. Can Ohio State pull of the miraculous? You'll have to tune in to see.

The Rest

Michigan Wolverines vs. #16 Iowa Hawkeyes - 1 ET (BTN)

Oh, how the Hawkeyes have fallen. Previously projected as a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament, Iowa has lost their last four games in a row and looks to avoid yet another upset to an unranked team. But at this point, would it even be an upset anymore?

Michigan enters this contest sitting right on the bubble for the NCAA tournament. Joe Lunardi has the Wolverines listed as one of his "Last Four In" and if they don't get this win against the Hawkeyes, they will need to make some noise in the BTT. Michigan has lost three of their last four, but all three losses have come on the road. This game is at home.

They key for Michigan is going to be controlling Jarrod Uthoff. The Big Ten's second-leading scorer dropped 23 the last time these two programs met, and you can bet that Michigan head coach John Beilein will have a game plan ready to help contain him. Also, they will have to stop Adam Woodbury, and the Wolverines don't have a true center on the roster. We'll see if he gets extra help drawn in the paint.

KenPom predicts Iowa to win with a 52% probability of victory. Essentially, this is a toss up, and by all means, this may be an even more entertaining game to watch than MSU-OSU earlier in the day.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers - 8 ET (BTN)

This is it. This is the game we've all been waiting for. Could it be possible, no, could it even be within reason that Rutgers goes 0-18 on the season in conference play? This game has all sorts of implications, the first being the possibility of being the first team to go winless in the Big Ten since Northwestern in 1999-2000. Rutgers is so bad this year that they're listed on KenPom as the 307th best team in Division 1 out of 351 teams. They are the first Power 6 conference team to dip below the 300 mark since the site's inception.

Minnesota, while shorthanded because of the suspension of three players due to an explicit video posted on social media last week, is still favored on KenPom with a 66% probability of victory. The Golden Gophers beat Rutgers earlier this season by nearly 20 points, but this is one of those classic "throw everything out the door" type of matchups. This is a once in a lifetime sporting event, that you definitely do not want to miss. Right...?