Feb 20, 2012

The Michigan State Spartans control their destiny in the Big Ten, but three other teams could challenge for conference banner

By Adam Biggers

The No. 6 Michigan State Spartans have a one-game lead over Ohio State and Michigan in the Big Ten standings due to their 76-62 win Sunday at Purdue.

With just four games remaining on their schedule, the Spartans (11-3, 22-5) must win-out in order to assure their third Big Ten title in the past four seasons.

Luckily for Michigan State, two of its final four contests are at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, where it's a perfect 16-0 on the year.

While Michigan State seemingly controls its own destiny, three other teams—Ohio State (10-4), Michigan (10-4) and Wisconsin (9-5)—have a shot at claiming the league's regular-season championship.

If the Spartans get past their next three opponents, and the Buckeyes do the same, the table would be set for the teams to meet and battle for a share of the title March 4 in East Lansing.

Michigan State's remaining schedule
(records and other facts/statistics were accurate as of Feb. 20)

Feb. 22 at Minnesota (5-9)

The Spartans thrashed the Gophers on Jan. 22, 68-52. Minnesota has lost three in a row, and coach Tubby Smith's program has failed to establish any type of rhythm during the Big Ten gauntlet.

Although they'll be on the road, the Spartans, who are 6-3 away from the Breslin Center, should down the Gophers with relative ease. Adding to the Gophers' struggles is a 1-4 record against AP top 25 teams.

Feb. 25 vs. Nebraska (4-10)

Michigan State racked up a 68-55 victory when it faced the Huskers on New Year's Eve. Nebraska has struggled in its first season in the Big Ten (previously playing in the Big XII), and logic would lead one to believe that things won't change much its second time around against the Spartans.

Nebraska is 1-5 against AP top 25 teams.

Feb. 28 at Indiana (8-7)

The Hoosiers are 15-1 in Bloomington this season, which could pose a threat to the Spartans. Indiana has won three of its last four, including a victory over a fully-loaded, pre-dismissal Purdue Boilermakers. If the Spartans are to slip on the road, their date with the Hoosiers could be that stumbling point.

Michigan State beat the Hoosiers, who are 3-4 against AP top 25 teams, 80-65 on Dec. 28.

March 4 vs. Ohio State (10-4)

A dangerous team, the Buckeyes feature one of the premier players in the Big Ten in Jared Sullinger, along with Aaron Craft, a great defensive guard. While there is plenty of talent on the Buckeyes' roster, they fell 58-48 in Columbus just over a week ago to Michigan State. The Spartans rendered Sullinger useless and forced Ohio State to force shots, evidenced by William Buford's 2-for-12 showing.

The Spartans will likely have their perfect home record intact when Ohio State comes to town. And while the Buckeyes, who are 6-3 against AP top 25 teams, will be in search of a Big Ten championship, the Spartans should defend their home court—and don't forget, it will be senior Draymond Green and Austin Thornton's final regular-season game at the Breslin, which should add an extra sense of urgency to Michigan State's cause.

Follow Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81

No comments:

Post a Comment