#2 Michigan State Set To Face Off With Wisconsin in the Big Ten Tournament

Madison Square Garden

New York City, NY

For the third time this season, #2 Michigan State 26-3 (16-2) is set to face off with the Wisconsin Badgers.  This time here in New York City in the Big Ten Tournament.  The Badgers advanced to the third round tilt with the Spartans after a 59-54 win over Maryland.

These teams first took each other on this season back on January 26 in East Lansing.  The Spartans handled the Badgers 76-61.  The last time they played was last Sunday in Madison.  The Spartans won that game as well 68-63.

MSU has won three of the last six Big Ten Tournaments and advanced to the title game in four of the last six seasons.

The depleted Badgers have fought a myriad of injuries.  While the fans in Wisconsin as a whole seem to ignore that fact, when you look at the fight in this squad with the brutal injuries that they can’t control it has been a disappointment, but not a failure.  The Badgers zeal is contagious and the Spartans will not have an easy task.

The Badgers fine head coach Greg Gard said of playing the Spartans tomorrow after having just played them that, “Obviously, yeah, it’s the last game before we got to today that we had. So it’s fresh in everybody’s mind. Don’t have to dig back through previous games. But that game was Sunday and tomorrows will be a different game. They’re a terrific team. They’re two deep at every position. Very talented. Obviously been playing really well. So we know we’ll have to play really, really well.”

Wisconsin guard Kahlil Iverson said of getting another chance at the Spartans after the men in green ruined their senior night that, “For sure we just played these guys and we went toe to toe with them, punch for punch. I personally figure we just have to string together an entire game for 40 minutes and just staying toe to toe with them like we did last game. I know we’ll be ready for them.”

The Spartan have to be concerned about Badger freshman guard Brad Davison who dropped 30 against the Spartans on Sunday.  MSU has to be able to contain the young Badger star.

Michigan State Spartan Hall of Fame Coach Tom Izzo said of the play of Davison on Sunday that, “We had the 10-point lead and they came back, so I give them credit. (Brad) Davison had incredible shots in that stretch. That kid’s a good player. He’s going to be a really good player in the next couple of years and even down the stretch this year. Gard’s done a really good job with this team. They went through their injuries and had to regroup. If you look at their last six, seven games, even in their losses they played awfully well and that’s a credit to him and his young players.”

Davison said after the loss, “We’d rather beat them (Michigan State) next week anyways. It’s not college football, its college basketball. The regular season is washed away and we control our own destiny. We have to come back to practice, get ready to improve, get ready to get better. Like I said, this thing is far from over. It stinks that we lost on Senior Day for our seniors, but in our opinion, we have a lot more basketball to play. We’re going to keep working, get healthy, continue to improve, and make a run at this thing.”

But while the Spartans will be concerned about Davison, the Badgers have a loaded Spartan team to worry about.  That worry starts with Spartan super sophomore Miles Bridges.

Gard said of what his Badgers did to contain Bridges in Madison and being able to repeat it tomorrow that, “I don’t know if we — I mean, we got him to miss some shots. But they had — Ward was doing a lot of good things inside. Jackson was a handful. Jackson really affected the game defensively I thought. And I think the one that nobody talks about as much is what the evolution and growth of Cassius Winston, how he’s involved and that was him going 6- for-6 from 3 and hitting some tough shots. Some were wide open, but some were tougher. That was the difference. But you can’t focus just on one guy with that team, just like hopefully you can’t focus with one guy on our team. It takes a group effort like Khalil mentioned in terms of what we need to do. It won’t be just about Miles Bridges. They’ve got a locker room full of really good players.”

Iverson added, “Just last game I think we kept him — we contained him from the perimeter, really good outside shooter. And he got a dunk the first play of the game, but I think we also played defense as a whole and we kind of cut off those driving lanes and things like that that usually get him going. It wasn’t just one guy playing a one-on-one, it was the whole team. That’s how we stop a guy like that.”

The Spartans are 4-4 all-time against the Badgers in the Big Ten Tournament.  In 2015 (Last time they met), Wisconsin posted an 80-69 overtime win in the championship game.  MSU’s last win against Wisconsin in the Big Ten Tournament was in 20014.

The Spartans have won 11 straight games and have their eye on a number one seed in the NCAA tournament that could come their way if they win this tournament.  The Spartans record on the regular season was the best in Spartan history.

This game tips off tomorrow at high noon.  It can be seen on BTN.

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