Early Struggles

Indianapolis,In - Michigan State has made it to four Final Fours and won a national championship under coach Tom Izzo, but the conference tournament has been a considerably different story.

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The seventh-ranked Spartans try to advance to their first Big Ten tournament final in nine years when they face Ohio State on Saturday afternoon in the league's first semifinal matchup at Conseco Fieldhouse.

Oddsmakers from Online Sportsbook Sportsbook.com have made the Michigan St -7.5 point spread favorites for Wednesday’s game against the Ohio St Current College Basketball Public Betting Information shows that 58% of more than 262 bets for this game have been placed on the Michigan St -7.5.

Michigan State (26-5) has become a national power under Izzo, who led the program to Final Four appearances in 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2005, and a national title in 2000.

The Spartans also enjoyed some early success in the Big Ten tournament, which began in 1998, as they won two of the first three postseason league titles. Yet they haven't even been to the championship game since, going 6-8 overall prior to this season and getting bounced three times in their first game.

This season, a Big Ten tournament title, combined with winning the league by four games in the regular season, could make Michigan State a No. 1 seed when the NCAA tournament field is announced on Sunday. That would be huge for the Spartans - all three times they've been a top seed under Izzo they've made it to the Final Four.

Michigan State moved a step closer to its first conference tournament championship game since 2000 on Friday afternoon, posting a 64-56 quarterfinal win - despite committing 16 turnovers - against eighth-seeded Minnesota.

"If you have lures of grandeur, of being something bigger than this, we have to get better as a team,'' Izzo said. "... So I am satisfied that we're moving on. I'm not as satisfied with some of the things we did late and we made some mistakes that maybe we'll discuss when we get back.''

With Big Ten player of the year Kalin Lucas struggling Friday - he shot 3 of 10 and finished with 12 points - sophomore Chris Allen stepped up. The reserve guard had 17 points, matching his career best for a conference game.

While Lucas had a poor game against the Golden Gophers, another All-Big Ten first-teamer didn't have problems scoring in his team's conference quarterfinal contest.

Ohio State sophomore Evan Turner had 19 points to lead the Buckeyes (21-9) to a 61-57 win against Wisconsin immediately after the Spartans disposed of Minnesota.

"He proved why he's the best player in the league, because he gets things done and makes his team successful," Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said of Turner.

The victory over the Badgers should have Ohio State feeling comfortable about its status as an NCAA tournament team, but it would certainly like to boost its resume with a Big Ten title.

Turner had 14 points and 10 rebounds in the Buckeyes' only meeting with Michigan State this season, a 67-58 loss in East Lansing on Jan. 6. Lucas had a game-high 20 points.

Michigan State's chances Saturday - and next week as well - may depend on how much Raymar Morgan can contribute. The Ohio native spent much of the last half of the regular season battling mononucleosis, and after he averaged 11.7 points in his last three games, he got into foul trouble Friday and finished with only four.

Morgan had 13 points and 10 boards in the win over the Buckeyes in January.

The winner of this contest will face either No. 24 Purdue or Illinois in Sunday's championship game.

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Posted: 3/14/09 2:30AM ET

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