This weekend’s Big Ten matchup of the week features two teams coming off of disappointing losses, and looking to rebound as the Big Ten regular season is soon coming to a close. The Spartans of Michigan State are traveling to Madison to face the No. 5 ranked Badgers, in what will be the only regular season meeting between these two teams all season. These teams faced each other twice a season ago, with the final meeting coming in the Big Ten Tournament. The teams split these two games. Sunday’s game should be another great matchup between these two teams.
The Badgers are coming off a very disappointing loss this past Tuesday night on the road against Maryland. Wisconsin lost by the final score of 59-53, and had trouble establishing any momentum early on in the game. The Badgers were trailing 31-20 at the end of the first half, which was a deficit they were never able to overcome. The Badgers once again received very little production from their bench, which proved costly. Sophomore forward, and third leading scorer, Nigel Hayes found himself in foul trouble for much of the second half, and the Badgers were forced to go to their bench, which presented matchup nightmares on defense. For the game, Wisconsin shot only 6-22 from three-point land, to go along with 7-12 from the free throw line. They also turned the ball over eight times, and only finished with six assists. This was a test for Wisconsin, as they hadn’t faced legitimate competition in weeks.
The Spartans are also coming off a very disappointing loss this past Thursday at home against Minnesota, in overtime. The Spartans had a tough time closing the game out, as they were outscored by five in the second half, and never led in overtime. They turned the ball over 13 times, compared to only seven Minnesota turnovers. The Spartans also shot only 19 for 29 from the free throw line. Junior forward Denzel Valentine led the way for Michigan State, scoring 27 points, to go along with seven rebounds. Valentine also shot 7 for 12 from three-point land. The rest of the Michigan State squad shot a dismal 6 for 20 from three. Senior guard Travis Trice also added 21 points and 10 assists off the bench.
This weekend marks the second-last weekend of Big Ten regular season play. After this game, Wisconsin goes on the road for back-to-back games against Minnesota on Thursday, and Ohio State on Sunday. Michigan State will return home to face Purdue on Wednesday, and then travel to Bloomington to face Indiana on Sunday.
Prediction: This game will be low scoring and, at times, painful to watch. Neither team will be able to establish offensive momentum in the first half, and the game could go down to crucial possessions and free throws in the second half. Both of these teams need this win badly, so one team will have to pull away with about five minutes to go in the second half. I see the Badgers coming away with a win here, but it will have to be hard fought and earned.
It’s March. Who’s ready for some madness?!
*Section Photo credit to Andy Lyons, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Mary Langenfeld, USA Today Sports