Two sentences from our friends at The Student Section about summed up what Michigan State vs. Ohio State meant to the Spartans:
Michigan State needed it. Michigan State got it.
— The Student Section (@TheStudentSect) February 14, 2015
After all, Michigan State came in to the game with a 7-4 record in Big Ten play and a not-so-stellar 17-8 overall record. That’s because the Spartans had losses to the likes of Texas Southern and Nebraska on the resume to go along with losses to all four ranked teams it had played going in to Saturday.
The 59-56 win over the Buckeyes not only kept Michigan State in the conversation for second place in the Big Ten, it also marked the first win against a ranked opponent on the season.
With back-to-back road games against rival Michigan and red-hot Illinois up next on the slate, Michigan State needed the win as much for confidence as it did for it’s NCAA tournament resume.
That NCAA tournament resume was light on quality and precarious at best coming in to this game. Michigan State sits at No. 9 seed in the latest bracketology by ESPN’s Joe Lunardi. However, Chris Dobbertan of SB Nation had the Spartans trending down to the No. 10 seed just yesterday and CBSSports.com had the Spartans playing in the “First Four.”
The good news is that the win pushed Michigan State’s RPI ranking up to No. 48, according to RealTimeRPI.com.
Clearly there’s very little consensus on the resume that Michigan State has built this season, so winning a game like they did on Saturday afternoon can only help their chances going forward.
What helped them pull out the win on Saturday and could help them going forward was continuing to shoot well from long distance. Michigan State hit 46.7 percent of its three-point attempts on the night (7-15), which was much higher than the 39.8 percent they are hitting on for the season.
Getting both Denzel Valentine and Branden Dawson shooting well from the field was and will be key to winning. On Saturday the two combined for 32 of the Spartans 59 points, while also shooting 12 of 23 from the field.
Having that kind of effective shooting from inside and out will really make the Spartans difficult to handle down the stretch.
However, the inside story of Saturday’s win doesn’t matter nearly as much as the actual result and what happens to Ohio State gong forward.
That W next to a game against a ranked opponent will only help Michigan State if Ohio State doesn’t collapse down the stretch either. After all, Ohio State moved to just 8-5 in Big Ten play and has a trip to Michigan and a home game against Wisconsin as potential loses on the schedule.
Now the challenge for Michigan State becomes making that win count by continuing to win. It’s not as if we’ve seen four or five Big Ten teams make statement wins only to drop games immediately after or anything, right?
With six games to go there is still plenty of work left to be done for the Spartans, especially with four of the final six games in conference play on the road. It will all start with back-to-back road games to Michigan and Illinois and also features tricky trips to Wisconsin and Indiana in two of the final three games.
So, Michigan State…the ball is now in your court, just don’t do what ever other team not named Wisconsin has done — collapse when destiny is in your own hands.