The Big Ten Tournament semifinals begins today with the Michigan State Spartans taking on the upstart Wisconsin Badgers. The game is scheduled for a 1:40 p.m. start time and it will be televised nationally on CBS. Currently the odds have Michigan State favored by four points with the total sitting at 115 points. It's the first time in Big Ten Tournament history that the top four seeds all made the semifinals.
Free Analysis: The last time Michigan State was able to beat Wisconsin three times in the same season, they went on to win a national championship. That's obviously the goal again for the Spartans, the top seeded team in the Big Ten Tournament. Wisconsin enters today's game fresh off a bigtime win over fifth seeded Indiana in which rarely-used senior Rob Wilson exploded for 30 points. Michigan State (25-7), the top seed after sharing the regular-season conference title with Ohio State and Michigan, advanced with a 92-75 win over Iowa on Friday behind 21 points, 10 rebounds and five assists from Big Ten player of the year Draymond Green. Michigan State was forced to share the Big Ten title after dropping their final two regular season games, but now have their eyes set firm on winning a tournament championship. Green said he doesn't really care about wining the conference title outright anymore. "I forgot that we had two losses in a row. It's a brand new season," Green said. "I just completely forgot about it, knowing that we were 0-0. We're 1-0 now and one step closer." Both Green and head coach Tom Izzo said they wanted to improve upon their defense because giving up 75 points per game just isn't the Spartans' style. In fact, Michigan State is allowing an average of 72.3 points over its last three games after giving up 57.8 per game before that. "You have to be able to defend and rebound in this tournament because you don't have many 90-point games in the NCAA tournament or this kind of tournament," Izzo said after Friday's win over Iowa. As mentioned before, the last time Wisconsin lost three times to the Spartans in a single season, Izzo's team won a national championship. It wasn't just three times, though. Neither team scored more than 61 points in any meeting as the Spartans beat the Badgers four times during the 1999-2000 season. A Mateen Cleaves-led Spartans won the final game that season 53-41 in the Final Four en route to the national title. It's also been awhile since MSU swept the regular season matchups between Wisconsin as well. State swept their regular season games for the first time since 2001, winning a controversial overtime contest 63-60 in Madison on Jan. 3 before beating the Badgers 69-55 on Feb. 16. MSU shot 52.2 percent in the second game, the most Wisconsin has given up all season. Wisconsin wins with defense and not allowing other teams to get good looks at the hoop consistently. The Badgers led the country in scoring defense this season, giving up an average of just 52.5 points per game. They obviously wouldn't be here without coach Bo Ryan, but he refuses to take any of the spotlight. "I think all the players, I think all the teams that we've had have worked so hard and I just happened to be the guy roaming the sidelines," Ryan said. Jordan Taylor, the Badger's best player, is averaging 21.8 points in five games as a starter against the Spartans, but he was just 3 of 13 with just 13 points in the last meeting. He struggled Friday against Indiana as well, scoring just 12 points and hitting for only three shots. The Badgers will have to stop Green inside during the game. The Spartans' captain led the Big Ten with 17 double-doubles in the regular season. He had 18 points and 14 rebounds in the first meeting and finished with 20 points and 10 boards in the second. He's an animal and if Wisconsin is going to hang around and potentially win, they need to stop him.
Free Pick: I like the Badgers getting points in this game. If we know anything about college athletics, it's that beating a team three times in the same season is pretty difficult to do. Wisconsin showed another dimension on Friday night by having a senior, that's really never been a big scoring threat, step up and become the go-to guy for the Badgers. That's the last thing the Spartans need, as they will definitely be keying on Taylor, who has had a pretty good career against the Spartans. Bo Ryan wins at this junction of the season no matter how talented his teams are. However, this team has been ranked in the Top 25 for nearly the entire season and there's a reason for that. Wisconsin is a tough team that is going to make you have to earn it. I'm expecting a lower scoring affair in this one and I think the Badgers can hang around. Scoop up the points while you can.
Betting Strategies: College Basketball Conference TournamentHost Marco D'Angelo and Pregame's own Johnny Detroit talk about how important the college basketball conference tournaments are for some teams and also discuss: Conference tournaments are purest handicap of the season and other various handicapping angles.