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Point/counterpoint: Which team will win the Big Ten Tournament?

BY DI STAFF | MARCH 06, 2012 6:30 AM

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No. 1-seed Michigan State

The No. 1 seed has won the Big Ten Tournament in four of the last five seasons.

That will become five of six this weekend when Michigan State wins its record-tying third tournament championship.

The Spartans will occupy the tournament's No. 1 seed despite losing their last two conference games to fall into a three-way tie for the Big Ten regular-season crown. This will allow Tom Izzo's team to avoid co-champions Ohio State and Michigan until the championship game and instead likely face Indiana or Wisconsin in the semifinals.

Teams rely on their stars to carry them through rough patches, especially in tournament play; the Spartans have that star in Draymond Green. The 6-7 senior has scored at least 17 points in each of the Spartans' last five games and has recorded 16 double-doubles this season. The Spartans will be able to lean on Green, and it will pay off.

Michigan State also has experience in battling back from adversity this season. The Spartans lost consecutive games twice earlier in the season, first in losses to North Carolina and Duke in November and then in defeats at Northwestern and Michigan in mid-January. The Spartans followed the first slide with 15-straight wins and the second with eight wins in nine games, including wins at Ohio State and Purdue. If any team can turn a losing streak into a long winning streak, it's Michigan State.

Michigan State will enter the Big Ten Tournament as a desperate team looking to right the ship before the NCAA Tournament, and the Spartans will leave Indianapolis with three wins and a conference tourney title.

— by Ryan Murphy

No. 3-seed Ohio State

The Buckeyes have been here before; Thad Matta has had his team in this same position for the previous two years.

Ohio State claimed Big Ten regular-season conference titles each of the previous two seasons. The team also won the tournament championships both years.

That consistency will play a huge role in the Buckeyes' run to a third-straight Big Ten Tournament title.

Consistency begins on defense for Matta's crew. The Buckeyes' defense has held six tournament opponents to an average of 62.8 points per game in regulation over the past two tournaments. The only exception was the double-overtime win over Illinois in the 2010 semifinals, which Ohio State won, 88-81.

Tag that stout defense with a good offense, and Ohio State is practically a lock to win each game. The Scarlet and Gray average 75.5 points per contest in the last two Big Ten Tournaments. That's more than 2 points higher than their seasonal average of 73 points against conference opponents, so it's not crazy to predict the Buckeyes will increase their offensive output come March.

These numbers won't be the be-all, end-all for Ohio State. Michigan and Michigan State are worthy foes; if they weren't, there wouldn't have been a three-way tie for the regular-season conference title.

But the previous two seasons has seen the state of Michigan flop in dramatic fashion. Tom Izzo is great in March, but he always saves his best for the tournament that counts.

And for the third-straight year, that won't be the Big Ten Tournament.

— by Cody Goodwin


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