Michigan State set for B1G Tournament quarterfinal against Ohio State


Jack Moreland

Tyson Walker celebrates during Michigan State’s 74-56 victory over Nebraska on January 3, 2022. Photo Credit: Jack Moreland /WDBM

Matt Merrifield, Basketball Beat Reporter

CHICAGO – The first two days of the Big Ten Tournament have been filled with chaos in Chicago as for the first time in its history, the lower-seeded team has won each of the first five matchups. Michigan State will get its first taste of the action Friday afternoon against No.13 seed Ohio State. 

The Spartans swept the regular season series against the Buckeyes including an 84-78 win over OSU on Senior Day at the Breslin Center on March 4. 

This will be the Buckeyes’ third game in three days after holding No. 12 seed Wisconsin to a 65-57 win on Wednesday night in the tournament opener and upsetting No. 5 seed Iowa 73-69 Thursday.  

MSU will be the most rested team coming into the tournament with six days of rest thanks to earning a double-bye from finishing fourth in the Big Ten.

Despite almost a week of rest, the Spartans look to continue the offensive hot streak on which they finished the regular season. MSU comes into Chicago having scored 80+ points in each of its last four games and had only done it two times prior to this stretch (Kentucky & Buffalo). 

Three-point shooting has been a strong point for the Spartans all year and has become a catalyst for this hot streak for them. Over the last four games, MSU is shooting 58.8% from deep including an 11-15 three-point performance in the loss to Iowa on Feb. 25.

 The Spartans have improved to 40.1% from beyond the arc which puts them third in the nation and makes them one of four teams shooting above 40 percent. 

The play of guard tandem Tyson Walker and AJ Hoggard will be crucial for the Spartans’ run in the Big Ten Tournament.

Both Walker and Hoggard have been playing some of their best basketball coming into the tournament. In the final four regular season games, the two combined an average of 40.3 points per game and 12.5 assists per game. 

Walker, who was named to the All-Big Ten second-team this week, has emerged as the Spartans’ go-to scorer over this four-game stretch, showing off his ability to make difficult shots. Hoggard has put his playmaking abilities on display as of late, recording five or more assists in each of his past seven games including a 14-assist game at Nebraska.

MSU has caught the attention of its opponents as OSU head coach Chris Holtmann prepares for tomorrow’s matchup.

“They’re [MSU] a terrific team,” Holtmann said after the Buckeyes’ win over Iowa. “It’s as good a Michigan State team as the Final Four team (2019).”

For OSU, the question is whether or not its freshmen can rest enough to continue their strong play. The Buckeyes started four freshmen in both games this weekend and they all played more than 20 minutes in each.

Senior Sean McNeil has provided a much-needed spark off the bench for OSU so far in Chicago. McNeil led the Buckeyes in scoring on Wednesday night with 17-points and backed that performance with 13-points against Iowa, combining for 6-10 from deep between the games.

Historically, the United Center has been a good host site for the Spartans as they have won three of the program’s six Big Ten Tournament titles in Chicago. A win for MSU would set up a date with the winner of Purdue-Rutgers at noon on Saturday.

MSU’s quest for its seventh Big Ten Tournament Title begins Friday at 2:30 p.m.