2012 NCAA Basketball Picks: Michigan State @ Ohio State Odds and Predictions – Free NCAAB Picks 2/11/2012

Free College Basketball Picks and Spreads: Michigan State @ Ohio State 2012 NCAA Basketball Vegas Odds, Free Picks, and Expert Predictions on ESPN 2/11/12: First place in the Big Ten will be on the line Saturday when the 12th-ranked Michigan State Spartans (19-5) travel to Columbus to take on the third-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes (21-3). Michigan State is a game back of the conference-leading Buckeyes, and while a win would pull the Spartans even, a loss would give Ohio State a commanding lead in the race for the Big Ten title. For the Buckeyes, a victory could also help lock up a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. That being said, the battle-tested Spartans have a few big road wins under their belts already and will be looking to add another one. However, Michigan State is a 10 ½-point underdog in this one.

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In many ways, this game is a clash of styles. The Buckeyes defy conventional Big Ten teams and play at a faster pace. It shows on the stat sheet, and Ohio State ranks in the top 30 in the country in scoring and 10th in field goal percentage. Michigan State on the other hand is just 62nd in points per game, but the Spartans are ninth in rebounding and strong on the defensive end. The Spartans will be looking to slow the pace of the game, grinding it out in half courts sets on every possession. The team that controls the tempo could ultimately control the outcome.

Ohio State has the edge in momentum coming into the matchup. The Buckeyes have won six straight games, knocking off three ranked opponents during the stretch. The Spartans have won two straight games, but are just 4-3 in their last seven games. All three of those losses came on the road, which doesn’t bode particularly well for Michigan State’s trip to Columbus this weekend.

Just as the style of play differs between the two teams on the offensive end, the personnel vary as well. Ohio State relies on the production of its dynamic duo of center Jared Sullinger and shooting guard William Buford. Sullinger is one of the best post scorers in the country, averaging more than 17 points and nine rebounds a game. Buford is a versatile wing scorer, who is able to create his own shot and has a solid mid-range game. Together, they give the Buckeyes a one-two, inside-outside punch.

Meanwhile, the Spartans rely more on their depth. Six players are averaging more than seven points a game, and eight players are averaging at least 17 minutes per game. If Michigan State does have a star, it is forward Draymond Green. He is the team’s leading scorer (15.2) and rebounder (10.6), and he leads the team in steals and blocks as well. Green has fought through a knee injury recently, and he is the one player the Spartans can turn to when they absolutely need a basket.

The X-factor in the game could be Ohio State forward Deshaun Thomas. He is averaging more than 14 points per game this season, and he can score in a variety of ways. More importantly, he has stepped up his effort on the glass lately. He has had at least five rebounds in five straight games, and against a Michigan State team that has dominated the boards, Thomas’ contributions on the defensive glass will be crucial. Extra possessions for the Spartans give them more chances to bleed the clock and slow down the tempo, which is the last thing the Buckeyes want.

In the end, Ohio State has a little more offensive firepower than the Spartans. Playing at home, Sullinger and company should find a way to get the job done thanks to their scoring balance in the paint and on the perimeter. That being said, the Spartans are as good as any team in the country at hanging around and keeping games close. Michigan State hasn’t lost a game by double figures since its season opener against North Carolina, and three losses have come by five points or less. Tom Izzo’s bunch will play scrappy and physical as they always do and make the Buckeyes work for a victory.

Prediction: Michigan State Spartans (+10 ½) Cover the Spread

College Basketball: Michigan State @ Ohio State
Date: 2/11/12
Time: 6:00 PM EST on ESPN
Vegas Odds Favorite: Ohio St -8.5 Total: Over/Under 129

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