Sunday, February 22, 2009

Wisconsin Preview

The Spartans look to bounce back into the win column today as they take on Wisconsin in the Breslin Center. Many argue that Wisconsin is our biggest conference rival, but it is hard to call it a rivalry since we have lost 11 of our last 14 against them. Michigan State has had success lately, however, having won their last three matchups in East Lansing.

Wisconsin (17-9 Overall, 8-6 in the Big Ten)

Why Wisconsin Could Win
1) Ball Handling - The Badgers are currently fourth in the country in regards to turnovers averaging only 9 per game within the conference. Only Northwestern has a better turnover margin at +5 within the Big Ten, while Wisconsin is +2. If they can get Michigan State to play sloppy, it will be an easy Wisconsin victory.
2) Rebounding - Wisconsin is second behind the Spartans in rebounding. Like Purdue, they are especially good at limiting offensive rebounds. This will be key as Michigan State's best offense so far this year has been an offensive rebound.
3) Balanced Attack - Unlike Big Ten team we have faced so far this year, Wisconsin is extremely balanced. They rank within the top 5 in three-quarters of all team stats. They are second in scoring defense, turnover margin, free throws, rebounding margin, third in FG%, and assist-to-turnover ratio and fourth in scoring offense, and 3-pt % defense. Surprisingly, this Wisconsin team doesn't get many steals or block very many shots.
4) Bo Ryan - This guy has owned Michigan State since coming to the conference. He is 11-3 against the Spartans with all three losses occurring at the Breslin Center. Although I am unable to pinpoint why he is so successful against us, he obviously knows something that Izzo doesn't. You don't have less talented teams and consistently beat Michigan State without being a good coach. Refer to this article by the Daily Gopher illustrating how Bo Ryan has done more with less over the past 10 years than any other coach in the conference. Would you believe that he has only had 11 top 100 recruits since 1998? Five of these guys are on this year's team! That is amazing.

My Keys to a Spartan Victory
1) Run an Effective Offense - In the last two games, we have tried to establish an inside presence early. We had success against Michigan, but our guards were not able to effectively feed the post against Purdue. Hopefully, we have worked on this since then. In order to win, I we must outscore Wisconsin in the paint. We can't rely on outside shooting to carry us. That includes shots one foot within the three-point line.
2) Limit Turnovers - This should probably be priority number one. If we turn the ball over, we are going to lose, especially knowing how good Wisconsin takes care of the rock. Hopefully, we have gotten the turnover bug out of our systems.
3) X-Factor(s) - We need Durrell Summers or Chris Allen to step up. End of story.
4) Free Throws - Like all Wisconsin/MSU games, I am expecting a lot of fouling. Wisconsin shoots a high percentage from the line so we will have to convert a high percentage of our own shots to win.
5) Bounce Back - The Spartans have rebounded from their four losses brilliantly so far this year. In those games, the Spartans are averaging 80 points per game and only giving up 69. Durrell Summers is also averaging 15.5 points in games after a loss.

That's Ridiculous
1) Tom Izzo Whining - I hate to do this to my own team, but today's article in the Free Press (here) is extremely untimely. While I appreciate the insight on the rivalry between both Michigan State and Wisconsin and between the coaches, the timing and manner of which he did it, was inappropriate. In the article, Izzo confirms what many already perceive about him already; that he is a whiner. His quotes are laced with the emotion of an eight-year old who just can't stand the fact that another coach in the conference seems to have his number. Here are all of Tom Izzo's quotes from the article:

  • "It really started with the dunk in the last 10 seconds of a game -- when you see every other Big Ten team holds it up and that didn't happen, that ticked me off. I said something about it, so that made every Wisconsin fan mad at me and every Michigan State fan mad at him. I brought it up and he acted like it was no big deal. Well, you know what? I didn't like that and I may not for the rest of my life.

  • "I don't want you to make a big deal about it, but he never ever said a word about it. Even when people said, 'Did he call and apologize? Did he do this and that?' No. Well ... we didn't do that when we beat them nine times in a row or 11 times in a row. And you know what? He beat us in the one Big Ten championship year, and that hurts, but we got Wisconsin in the Final Four and that was for a national championship."

  • "It bothers me, but I don't play the game. Do I sit there and say it doesn't bother me? No, of course it bothers me. But all it makes me do is work to do what I can do better and try to prepare them better, and eventually the players play the game.
  • "We're not hanging out, but I'm not enemies with Bo. We're on a board together, and I get along with Bo."

I remember the dunk in 2003, and personally, I think it was blown way out of proportion. Like most of the subsequent matchups, the bigger story was how we were favored to win and lost. I believe that Alando Tucker's dunk on that day rattled us, and by the statements that Izzo made just yesterday, we apparently still haven't recovered from it. Instead of approaching this as just another game, Michigan State has put too much emphasis on beating the Badgers and has since lost 11 of their last 14 against them. Since that day, In order for this trend to change, we need to forget about the past and play in the now.
2) Unfurled 2004 Big Ten Banner Happened Before - Everyone knows about the incident, but most are unaware that this had happened before. In 1998, I was in the Izzone on Senior night as we played Purdue in the final game of the regular season. The Spartans had already clinched a share of the Big Ten title with Illinois, so someone had the brilliant idea to hang the banner before the game. The result was Purdue upsetting us in overtime and we lost the outright title. Those who ignore history are condemned to repeat it.
3) "Why Does Bo Ryan Suck So Much?" - During an informal Q&A session during the Big Ten Tournament pep rally in Indianapolis last year, some guy asked Tom Izzo this question in front of approximately 500 alumni. Izzo respectfully declined to answer it. That would have been a better time to tell us all about our hatred of Wisconsin instead of the day of a game.

It's hard to predict a game after a loss. For some reason, when we lose, it always feels like the sky is falling. Today, Michigan State has all the motivation that it needs to perform well. They will want to play well for the 1979 championship team that will be in attendance and they want to stay one game up on Purdue for the conference championship. I'm sure that they want to win one for their coach also, but again, this should be the last thing on their mind.

Wisconsin is not as talented as Michigan State. The Spartans have the personnel to dictate a faster tempo, dominate on the offensive glass, and force the Badgers into poor shots. The difference will be on the sidelines and which coach will call a better game. While Bo Ryan doesn't have the horses that Michigan State does, it hasn't ever stopped him in the past.

My head says that momentum will get the best of the Spartans, but my heart says that they will not let this Big Ten Championship slip through their fingers, especially in front of Magic and company.

Michigan State over Wisconsin 63-60

Pregame Quotes
"I don't like Wisconsin. That's no secret. I don't think they like us, either. They're dirty, they push, they hold. Actually, I like Michigan more than I like them. That's pretty bad."
--Goran Suton

Again, just play the game G. We push. We hold. "It's the Big [Ten]. This ain't intramurals!"

Tomorrow - Wisconsin Post Game

1 comment:

  1. I am Wisconsin fan and I can appreciate what Michigan State's success on the national stage has done for the Big Ten. I also respect the athleticism of State's players year after year. Most of the aspects of the Spartan program that I respect. However, I have no respect for how Tom Izzo acts on the sideline. Bo does his share of lobbying the officials, but he recognizes when a legitimate foul was called against his team. By the way Izzo reacts, you would think that his team never fouls (which makes you wonder why else he recruited Al Anagonye). It's just childish and disrespectful to the game.
    Also, obviously Wisconsin didn't quite have it today and didn't seem to think they needed to score in the second half to win, but it's too bad the momentum changing play of the game came after a no-call on a double dribble by Suton.


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