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No. 1 goes down as Ohio State upsets Michigan State

CBS Sports Classic

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 23: Head coach Chris Holtmann of the Ohio State Buckeyes reacts during the first half of the CBS Sports Classic against the North Carolina Tar Heels at the Smoothie King Center on December 23, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

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Keita Bates-Diop scored a career-high 32 points to lead four players in double-figures as Ohio State landed their first marquee win of the season, whipping up on No. 1 Michigan State, 80-64, in Columbus.

The game was tied at 29 late in the first half, but the Buckeyes scored the final 12 points before intermission - including 10 points in the final :45 - and then outscored the Spartans 8-2 to open the second half, opening up a 49-31 lead that Tom Izzo’s club would never find a way to erase. The Buckeyes led by as many as 25 points in the second half.

This was the third time this weekend and the 14th time this season that a top five team lost to an unranked opponent, further validating something that we have been saying all season long - the top teams in college basketball just aren’t all that good this year. I still believe Michigan State is one of college basketball’s two-best teams, but that doesn’t mean that the gap between them and the rest of the field is so big that they can avoid taking a beating on the road in league play.

Put another way, I think that the Spartans will be fine. The inability to get back into the game was somewhat concerning, but frankly, that might say more about Ohio State than anything.

The Buckeyes are now 13-4 on the season and sitting tied with Purdue atop the Big Ten standings at 4-0. Those four losses all came to teams that seem destined to play in the NCAA tournament - North Carolina, Clemson, Gonzaga and Butler - and given all of the issues in the Big Ten this season, I don’t even think that it is a hot take to say that the Buckeyes are the third best team in the conference.

Given where this team was a season ago, Chris Holtmann has to just about be a lock for Coach of the Year right now. Think about it. Ohio State fired Thad Matta in June because they didn’t think that he had the pieces on the roster to be able to do what Holtmann is doing, and that’s not entirely unfair. Matta was 17-15 last season and 7-11 in the Big Ten with a roster that wasn’t really all that different from this one.

The one major difference is that JaQuan Lyle has essentially been replaced by Bates-Diop, who missed most of last season through injury. And Bates-Diop is proving to America why there have been NBA teams interested in him for years. He might be the Big Ten Player of the Year today.

So it helps that Holtmann has him back.

But that shouldn’t necessarily diminish the job that he has done with this roster.

Put another way, Ohio State isn’t winning this year simply because Bates-Diop is healthy. They are winning because Holtmann is a damn good coach.

If anything, it should put into perspective how Indiana fans felt after losing to Indiana State and Fort Wayne at home by 41 points.

Did Ohio State make the best hire of anyone in the Big Ten last offseason?