Wisconsin Badgers (10-11) at Michigan State Spartans (18-3)
There aren’t many games on the college basketball schedule today, with just ten division one games to be played today. And of those, only one ranked team will be on the floor, the Michigan State Spartans. It is the calm before the storm, as tomorrow almost the entire top twenty-five will be in action.
Highlight games on the slate for tomorrow are a top-five matchup between Duke and Virginia, N.C. State at North Carolina, Texas A&M at Kansas and Kentucky at West Virginia. Tomorrow looks to be an exciting one, but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves and see if we can find some value today on a slow day. Today I will be breaking down a matchup in the Big 10 between the Michigan State Spartans and the Wisconsin Badgers.
The Wisconsin Badgers will travel to East Lansing, Michigan Friday night for a Big 10 showdown with the Spartans of Michigan State. The Badgers have lost four out of their last five games and find themselves towards the bottom of the league standings. They are at risk of missing the NCAA tournament for this first time this millennium.
Michigan State is in bad need of a win as well as they are ranked sixth in the country but are currently in third place in a loaded Big 10 conference. The Spartans are huge -17-point favorites tonight at home. The game total over-under is set at 136 points. Tipoff is scheduled for 5:00 PM PST from the Breslin Center.
The Wisconsin Badgers are tied for the fourth-longest active streak of seasons where they made the NCAA tournament. The Badgers have made the Big Dance 19 consecutive years, that is tied with Gonzaga and just one season behind Michigan State. Duke has made 22 consecutive tournaments, and the Kansas Jayhawks have made an NCAA record 28 straight tourneys. The current streak is the sixth longest of all time, and it is in grave danger of ending this season.
The Badgers are sitting at 10-11, and they would need to catch fire right now to have any shot of an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament this season. What is more likely is that Wisconsin will be tasked with having to win the Big 10 conference tournament and get the auto-bid that goes with it, if they are to keep their streak alive. That just isn’t going to happen this year with teams like Purdue, Michigan State, Michigan, and Ohio State all having very strong teams.
Since conference play really kicked off, the Badgers have lost four straight league road games. Losses to Purdue, Nebraska, Rutgers, and Iowa have come by an average margin of loss of sixteen points. These games haven’t even really been competitive.
They did manage to beat Penn State on the road, way back on December 4th, but that feels like a lifetime away right now. They will need their best performance of the year tonight if they want to hang with a motivated Michigan State team.
Michigan State might be the best team in the country. I don’t think they deserve to be ranked number one, they had a couple of slip-ups in league play, but that doesn’t mean they still aren’t the most talented team. This team has shown an ability to blow out some very good teams, and all three of their losses are to teams that project to be top four seeds in the NCAA tournament this season.
The Spartans are led by player of the year candidate Miles Bridges. Bridges is averaging 18 points and 7 boards a game for Sparty. But this really is a true team effort this season for Michigan State. The Spartans are the second-best shooting team in the country, averaging 53% from the field.
They are a top ten team behind the arc as well at 42% from the land of three. They are the nation’s top passing team, they are fourth in rebounding, and they block more shots than any other team in division one. You can’t find a hole in this roster if you tried.
Michigan State winning this game seems like a foregone conclusion. There is just no way that the Spartans are going to lose to a bad team like Wisconsin at home. But will they cover that jumbo number of 17 points? Now that is an altogether different question.
When you look at the home games for Michigan State, you can see that they are really tough against Big 10 teams. They dropped one game to a hot Michigan team and kept it close beating Rutgers by only four points. But the rest of their conference home games went like this. Beat Nebraska by 29, beat Maryland by 30, beat Indiana by 30. They can absolutely blow out teams that are much better than the one that they are facing tonight in Wisconsin.
I think Tom Izzo’s squad got a wake-up call when they lost to Michigan at home two weeks ago. It’s not that Michigan is a bad team, they are actually quite good, but the Spartans are the much more talented team and shouldn’t have dropped that game at home.
They followed that loss up with a thirty-point pounding of a decent Indiana team, and then they beat Illinois on the road by double digits. They are playing with a fire again, and I see them obliterating this Wisconsin team tonight. Michigan State is now two full games behind Purdue and has no room for keeping games like these close.
I expect a blowout. Give me the Michigan State Spartans laying all kinds of wood at -17-points tonight from home.