The College Basketball Notebook

December 16, 2010 7:43 AM

Ohio State & Michigan State Start In Opposite Directions

JaredSullinger.jpgOhio State has enjoyed great success since Thad Matta took over the basketball program. The Buckeyes won back-to-back Big Ten titles in 2006-07, made the Final Four in '07 and won a piece of another conference title last season as a prelude to advancing to the Sweet 16. Matta has joined forces with football coach Jim Tressel to give Ohio State the most successful all-around football/basketball combo in the Big Ten. Now as Tressel prepares for the Sugar Bowl, Matta is at it again, with his team ranked #2 in the nation. Let's take a look...

The Buckeys haven't played a great schedule to this point, with only wins over Florida and Florida State, and they don't have any tests prior to the Dec. 31 opening of Big Ten play. What they do have is the component parts of an outstanding team. The backcourt is solid and led by senior leader Jon Diebler, who can both run the offense and hit the trey. His running mate is William Buford, who joins with swingman David Lighty as a double-digit scorer. This trio brings both production and experience, while outstanding freshman Jared Sullinger takes care of business down low. Sullinger is averaging 17 points and 8 rebounds a game, and he doesn't have to do it alone. Dallas Lauderdale is a steady contributor at forward and another freshman, Deshaun Thomas is averaging 10 ppg and could see more minutes as the season goes on. The beat goes on in Columbus.

No basketball program has been better in the Big Ten than Michigan State, and it was the Spartans who opened at #2 nationally. November and December hasn't gone the way Tom Izzo had hoped, to say the least. The tough-minded coach has called his team "sissies" and the early performance has justified his frustration. Michigan State has barely escaped Chaminade and Oakland, while losing to UConn, Syracuse and Duke. Only a win over Washington is of any significance and that's not what anyone had in mind for this experienced team. Kalin Lucas is one of the best guards in the country running the show and Durrell Summers and Korie Lucious are solid shooters alongside him. Izzo needs more help for Draymond Green down low. While Green is getting his points and rebounds, he needs Delvon Roe to step up. Michigan State has the pieces to get this thing back on track and only a fool bets against Izzo. Sparty gets its next test on December 29 against Texas and then starts the conference schedule two days later.

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Dan Flaherty is the editor of the Sports Notebook Family, published through the Real Clear Sports Blog Network, offering daily commentary in college football ,game analysis in the NFL. and coverage of college basketball. He is the author of The Last New Year's, a book that revisits the historic high points of college football's New Year's Day bowl games.

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