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2012 Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament

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Rubber match between the Buckeyes and Spartans will determine the Big Ten Champ



With all due respect to Michigan, the two best teams in the Big Ten will meet on Sunday afternoon to determine once and for all who the league’s best squad is for the 2011/2012 campaign. Michigan State and Ohio State finished the regular season tied with Michigan atop the standings at 13-5, but the (highly subjective, mind you) eye test would indicate those two were more complete teams than the Maize and Blue, making it more fitting that they’ll be the ones to determine who the Kings of the Big Ten are.

Both teams are coming off dominating performances in the Big Ten semi-finals. Michigan State took an early punch from Wisconsin, trailing the Badgers by double digits at the midway point of the first half. Sparty punched right back, though, closing the half on a 26-5 run to lead 35-25 at the intermission. Wisconsin could not get anything going offensively after their hot start and subsequently never seriously threatened again, leaving Michigan State to coast their way to a spot in the tournament final. All American forward Draymond Green led the Michigan State with 14 points and 16 boards, while guards Keith Appling and Austin Thornton chipped in 13 and 12 points, respectively.


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In the day’s second semi-final, Ohio State looked almost surgical in giving their archrivals from Michigan their worst loss of the year. It was so bad that the 77-55 final score didn’t even accurately portray how lopsided this game was from start to finish. Michigan looked completely sluggish and almost disinterested after falling behind 16-3 early in the first half. Ohio State’s starting frontcourt of Jared Sullinger and DeShaun Thomas was able to feast on the undersized Wolverines combining for a gaudy 46 points and 12 rebounds. The Buckeyes dominated every single aspect of this game and have looked near unbeatable during their two games in Indianapolis.

A lot will be on the line for these two teams when they meet for the third time this season tomorrow at 3:30. Firstly, after splitting the first two games, the winner will have won the season series. Second is the fact that the winner can be considered as the de facto Big Ten champ, as this tournament has played out to be an unofficial tiebreaker between the two. Lastly, a No. 1 seed for the NCAA Tournament is still very much in play for whoever cuts down the nets tomorrow. Duke and Kansas losing in their conference’s semi-finals means both these teams will certainly receive a look from the selection committee to be the Tournament’s final No. 1 seed, with the nod likely going to whichever team triumphs in Indy.

The margin between these teams is razor thin. Ohio State has a little more firepower, but Michigan State counters with incredible depth and balance. Each team one on the other’s home floor this year, so I guess it’s fitting that they’ll play the rubber match at a neutral site. Both have looked completely dominant this weekend, so the question is which team will step up and play their best when it matters most? As tired of a cliché as that is, it definitely holds some water when it comes to these two tough, talented, and well-coached squads.

Regardless of what happens tomorrow, both look like they will be able to put together long NCAA Tournament runs and possibly end the Big Ten’s excruciatingly long national championship drought. First things first, though, the league title still needs to be determined. By tomorrow afternoon the dust will have settled and the true Big Ten champion will finally be determined.


By Scott Capron
DFN Sports Staff Writer