BANKERS LIFE FIELDHOUSE, INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA
SATURDAY, MARCH 10, 2012, 1:40 PM EST
ONLINE RADIO FEED: Spartan Sports Network
After Friday's rout of Iowa a familiar opponent faces Michigan State in the Big Ten Tournament semi-finals. The Spartans have already beaten the Badgers twice this year but will have to do it again to have a shot to win the school's first Big Ten Tournament since the National Championship Year of 2000.
2000 was also the last time MSU beat Wisconsin three times in a year. They added a fourth in the Final Four on the way to the title. Although winning at the Kohl Center this year was a significant milestone for Tom Izzo and the Spartans, there are still demons to be exorcised. Izzo has never beaten Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan in the Big Ten tournament. The win in 2000 came against Dick Bennett and Izzo has gone 0-3 against the Badgers since then, including the gut-wrenching loss in 2008 when Michael Flowers' steal and layup capped a Wisconsin comeback that featured four Spartans fouling out.
Not much in the way of a preview is needed for this one. The Badgers are the same team they've been all year. They play at the slowest pace of any major conference team and show great discipline and poise. Their record is 24-8 (12-6 in conference) and they just missed out on a fourth share of the Big Ten regular season title. They're ranked 14th by the AP and 12th in the coaches' poll. They've done it more with defense this year than in recent years (3rd best defensive efficiency in the country) but they can still score points, led by all-Big Ten point guard Jordan Taylor. The previous game between the two teams was a convincing 14-point win for MSU at the Breslin Center, where the Spartans scored 69 points in only 59 possessions, the best offensive game any opponent has put up against the Badgers this year.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention the surprising 30-point performance put up by reserve senior Rob Wilson in the Badgers' quarterfinal win over Indiana. With two career starts and averaging 11 minutes and under 4 points per game it would be quite a story if he were to do something similar against MSU heading into the NCAA tournament. The rest of the story, though, was Wisconsin's overall 13-26 shooting from beyond the arc. Wisconsin has lived or died from the perimeter this year and MSU will need to keep it closer to the 10-46 combined they shot in the two matchups this season.
Should be a tough, physical battle as MSU looks to return the Big Ten title game for the first time since the magical 2000 season. This is the game thread so the usual rules apply: be civil and enjoy the game.