Originally posted on Fox Sports Ohio  |  Last updated 3/10/12
INDIANAPOLIS - If there's any justice in Bracketville, the winner of Sunday's Big Ten Tournament title game between Michigan State and Ohio State will be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Both are deserving. Both are pretty darn good, as evidenced by their work in Saturday's Big Ten semifinals. The February rut that exposed Ohio State's flaws and led to some uncharacteristic, high-maintenance behavior is officially over. The Buckeyes are rolling again, and their 77-55 win over Michigan Saturday was essentially over not long after it started. "I've seen some really good teams in 20-some years as a coach," Michigan coach John Beilein said, "and that's as good a game as I've ever seen a college team play." When Jared Sullinger is on his game, that will happen. Sullinger delivered an efficient and assertive 24 points and 6 rebounds in 27 minutes Saturday. Deshaun Thomas, who's also been rolling lately, scored 22, and William Buford scored 10. Aaron Craft's relentless defense helped hold Michigan freshman point guard Trey Burke to 5 points and a season-high 8 turnovers. Michigan State, the No. 1 seed here at the Big Ten Tournament by virtue of the tiebreaker system with fellow regular season tri-champions Ohio State and Michigan, has also posted two dominating wins in Indianapolis. The Spartans shook off a slow start Saturday and rolled to their second easy win in as many days, beating Wisconsin 65-52. The computer numbers have said all season that the Big Ten is the nation's strongest conference, and the eye test says not only that Michigan State and Ohio State are its two best teams, but also that Draymond Green and Sullinger are the two best players. "We were talking this morning that, if you were a basketball fan, and you got a ticket (Saturday), you saw No. 8 versus No. 12 and No. 7 versus No. 15," Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. "It doesn't get much better for the city of Indianapolis. There's some great basketball. I think tomorrow you're kind of looking at the same type of situation." It's been a great year for the Big Ten, and it's been a great conference tournament. Because who you play is supposed to be the most important factor for the NCAA Tournament Committee that's meeting just down the road from this tournament at Banker's Life Fieldhouse, it would be more than a slight injustice if the winner of the third Michigan State-Ohio State game -- each won on the other's home floor in the regular season -- doesn't get one of the four No. 1 seeds awarded Sunday night. It would be a crying shame. "The way this conference has gone, in my opinion, it's been the best conference in the nation all year," said Green, the Big Ten Player of the Year. "So you would probably think that there's a possibility that you are playing for a No. 1 seed, whoever wins this next game. I mean, whoever wins that championship game probably is playing for a No. 1 seed. "We would love to get a No. 1 seed because one thing we always talk about, leaving your own legacy, doing something that hasn't been done here in a long time. I think the last time we had a No. 1 seed was 2001 or something like that. So it's just another one of those footprints you can leave in the sand." Both teams lost five conference games in the regular season. The Big Ten has six virtual locks for the NCAA Tournament with Northwestern -- again -- waiting, hoping and sweating on Selection Sunday. Five weeks ago, Illinois was a virtual tournament lock before going into a tailspin that cost coach Bruce Weber his job. Illinois beat both Ohio State and Michigan State on its home floor. Craft said the Big Ten is deep enough "that you can lose to anyone, on any night, if you aren't ready. It's a really tough conference. As for the NCAA Tournament we're not really worrying about that right now. Right now our focus is on Michigan State." Both the Buckeyes and Spartans have big-time resumes, though it will be up to the committee to determine how strong. Michigan State started its season with neutral-court losses to North Carolina and Duke, then didn't lose again until January. Ohio State blitzed Duke and Florida on its home floor and lost at Kansas in December with Sullinger out. Ohio State is 27-6. Michigan State is 26-7. Their rubber match is the final game of college basketball's first season, the lead-in to the tournament selection show, and will be watched by many. It should be worth the two hours. "Right now," Thomas said, "we're trying to beat Michigan State." The immediate focus for both is on Sunday, on continuing the rolls that have carried each team through the weekend and on crowning a true Big Ten champion. It's a title that will be well earned, and one that should be so rewarded.
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