INDIANAPOLIS — We were in this position eight days ago.
MSU vs. Ohio State for the Big Ten championship (preview story here). On March 4, MSU jumped out to a 15-point lead in the first half, but the Buckeyes hung around, chipped at the lead, eventually got even and William Buford hit the winning jumper with one second left, stunning the Breslin Center fans and players.
The game changed when Branden Dawson tore his ACL midway through the first half. At that point Buford had scored just four points, all on free throws. He scored 21 points the rest of the way.
And that will be the biggest key in this game. Who can stop William Buford? I'd expect Austin Thornton to start out on him, but Brandan Kearney might see some time on him too. On the other side of that matchup, MSU will need Thornton and Brandon Wood to hit shots, like they've done in the first two games here. Buford also has been known to shut himself down, but he's been on a tear recently.
As for the other matchups, Jared Sullinger has scored 31 points in two games against MSU this year. He also has 26 rebounds. The Buckeyes had 11 offensive rebounds in East Lansing, and that's another problem without Dawson. Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne know they're in for a physical game, and they'll need to keep Sullinger off the offensive boards.
Draymond Green has really shut down Deshaun Thomas in both games this season, and MSU will have to have the upper hand in that matchup.
By most accounts, the winner of this game will get a No. 1 seed. We'll find out shortly after the game. I'm curious how many MSU fans have come down for the championship. The Buckeyes already have a lot of fans here.
Both of these teams have been dominant in two Big Ten Tournament games. There rarely is this much on the line in a tournament championship game. This could be one to remember.
Prediction: MSU 65, Ohio State 63