I should have just stuck with this sentence from the preview:
. . . this game looks like as a big a longshot any MSU has faced in a long time: a road game in a place the team rarely wins even when it's playing well against a team that appears to be peaking in terms of offensive efficiency while attempting to bounce back from an utterly abysmal loss.
It takes a perfect storm of offensive swagger and defensive ineptitude for a team to post figures like 1.76 PPP, 4.1 TO%, and 81.4 eFG%, as Wisconsin did in the first half today. For the full game, those indicators were still very, very lethal: 1.54, 15.0, 73.1. It speaks to what kind of season the Big Ten is having offensively that Jordan Taylor isn't getting more conference player of the year talk. You can't get much more efficient than 30 points on 13 FGA with 6 assists vs. 1 turnover. And that was with a hand in the face (Keith Appling's, quite frequently) most of the game.
Another team shoots 50%-plus from 3-point range (11-17). Statistically, you have to say this kind of shooting run from almost every opponent over a three-week stretch has to be a fluke. But it's become very hard to stick to my statistical guns here. At some point, maybe opponents can smell your lack of confidence from so far away that they start the game with a level of confidence that falls outside the bounds of normal statistical parameters. Beats me. Asking Derrick Nix to guard a guy shooting over 50% from beyond the arc right out of the gate didn't help either.
I still don't think MSU has "quit." The effort level was much better than it was against Iowa. But that speaks to just how low the team's confidence level is. Outside of Kalin Lucas (8-14 from the field vs. 12-32 for the rest of the team), no one on this team has any kind of rhythm or comfort zone on offense. Somehow, MSU got to 56 points in 53 possessions, but that was basically a function of not turning the ball over (7 TOs). You get the sense that Wisconsin knew it didn't have to go out of its way to disrupt the MSU offense.
Unfathomable statistic: No MSU player had more than 3 rebounds in this game. Of course, there only 16 missed Badger field goal attempts to rebound. And they only missed one free throw in 26 attempts (I confess I wasn't watching closely enough in the 2nd half to know if the miss was reboundable). These numbers are all outside like two standard deviations of any recent MSU basketball experience. (And, by "recent," I mean "since "Mateen Cleaves stepped on campus." CBS said this was the first time MSU has lost two straight games by 20+ points since 1996.)
Thursday's game vs Penn State in East Lansing looks like a must-win--not for NCAA Tournament purposes, just for purposes of avoiding another four weeks of public humiliation. I'm not going to try to spin any reason to be optimistic about getting that win. Everything I've written for the last couple weeks ends up looking downright silly within a day or two. So I'll stop right there.