After a decisive 67-51 in the quarterfinals last night, the Spartans take on the Badgers in the semifinals today. Tip off is 25 minutes after the conclusion of the first semifinal matchup, Michigan-Ohio State, which starts at 1:40 pm ET. In their first and only matchup this season, Wisconsin edged Michigan State 60-58 in Madison.
A Look Back At The First Meeting
The first matchup of these two teams was a back and forth battle that ended in dramatic fashion, with Traevon Jackson hitting a buzzer beater to knock off the Spartans. It was a game for MSU without Branden Dawson and Keith Appling, who were out with injuries. Senior center Adreian Payne led MSU with 24 points but only had 4 rebounds. Gary Harris couldn’t find his stroke all game long, ending with 6 points on a less than stellar 3-20 shooting performance. Travis Trice chipped in 13 points, including shooting 3-5 from beyond the arc. For Wisconsin, it was a balanced attack. Four Badgers were in double figures, including 6th man Nigel Hayes netting 14 points.
Recent Badgers Success
Bo Ryan’s team has been on fire coming into this game, winning 9 out of their last 10 games. In their quarterfinal matchup they steamrolled Minnesota 83-57. Obviously for the Badgers, the key for them is 3 point shooting. As a team they shot 42% from deep in yesterday’s win. Ben Brust led the charge with 29 points, going 4-10 from beyond the arc. If Michigan State is counting on Brust only scoring 5 points again today, they better think again.
Wisconsin has been solid all season, minus the 6 game stretch where they lost 5 of those games. Many think it is Bo Ryan’s most talented he’s ever had, and I agree. The Badgers are definitely not short on talent. The three headed monster of Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker, and Ben Brust is as good as any trio in the conference. Throw in quality players such as Traevon Jackson, Josh Gasser and Nigel Hayes and the Badgers have a very talented core group.
Keys To Today’s Game
For the Spartans, having Appling and Dawson back will definitely help. If nothing else, it will provide MSU with quality depth. In the first meeting Michigan State only had six points off the bench; all from freshman Alvin Ellis. Having these two back will let Trice come off the bench and playing with Appling should free him up for more open looks. He was 3-5 from 3 in the first meeting; he will need to shoot well again today. Trice is a key player for MSU, providing the Spartans with a quality scoring option off the bench. Trice and the rest of the Spartan bench will have to play well today.
As always, a major key for Tom Izzo’s club today will be Gary Harris. If Harris shoots 3-20 again the Spartans will have a hard time winning. They need him to be aggressive but also be smart with his shot selection. When he shoots good shots there are few players better in the country. Playing in his hometown should provide Harris with plenty of motivation in this game.
Keith Appling can’t be afraid to shoot. The wrist injury is definitely in his head, but he needs to shake that if the Spartans are going to win this game and more importantly make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. Appling is able to do so many things for this team, whether it’s his scoring ability or his ability to free up teammates for open looks. Look for Keith to outperform opposing point guard Traevon Jackson if Michigan State wins this one.
We are in for another close battle today in Indianapolis. With the Spartans fully healthy they won’t go down without a fight. But since I picked Wisconsin to win the Big Ten Tournament, I have to honor that pick. Give me Wisconsin 63, MSU 60.