Few people outside the Ohio State program likely thought the Buckeyes would see Michigan State again after the Spartans defeated them Sunday in the regular-season finale.
The 84-78 win helped Michigan State (19-11) earn the No. 4 seed and a double-bye to the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament in Chicago.
In order for the Buckeyes (15-18) to get there they would have needed to beat No. 12 Wisconsin on Wednesday, which they did (65-57), and upset No. 5 Iowa on Thursday, which they also did (73-69), to become just the third No. 13 seed to reach the quarters in tourney history, joining Penn State in 2015 and Nebraska four years later.
Ohio State will play the Spartans on Friday with a chance to be the first No. 13 to reach the semifinals. The winner plays either Rutgers (9) or Purdue (1) on Saturday.
It’s a remarkable turnaround for an Ohio State team that lost 14 of 15 games before a modest two straight wins — a streak, if you will — that was snapped Sunday.
“Our guys really fought today and they fought yesterday,” Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said after the Iowa game. “They fought for the last couple of weeks.
“When a team falls apart, it’s on everybody. When a team stays together it’s on the players. They found a way. It’s just fun. I’m glad they’re enjoying it.”
While Michigan State knows it’s a lock for the NCAA Tournament, the only way the Buckeyes can make it is to win the conference championship, meaning five wins in five days.
Still, Spartans coach Tom Izzo is confident his players want the challenge of competing for a seventh tournament title.
“I don’t mind putting that pressure on us. Normally, I would downplay it. I do think we are (ready),” he said. “I said what I said and I still believe it: I still think this team is good enough to make a run. And that’s putting myself out there a little bit, but I don’t always say it.”
— Field Level Media