The Wisconsin Badgers (26-3, 14-2 Big Ten) returned to Madison on Sunday looking to redeem themselves after a loss at Maryland snapped their 11-game winning streak. At Maryland, the Badgers shot 27.3% from 3-point range. In order to get back on the season's incline, the Badgers would have to get past the Michigan State Spartans (19-10, 10-6 Big Ten), who are currently tied with Purdue for third place in the Big Ten standings. MSU suffered a tough overtime loss at home to Minnesota Thursday night. The Spartans had a comfortable lead towards the end of regulation time, but a Carlos Morris three with seconds to go gave Minnesota the extra five minutes to take a big road win.
In Sunday's matchup, Wisconsin let it be known early that there was no way it would lose two games in a row for the first time this season. The Badgers held a comfortable double-digit lead over the Spartans for a majority of the game and showed few signs of letting go. But Michigan State did finish the game off within seven, as Wisconsin clinched its share of the Big Ten regular season title in the 68-61 win.
What We Learned
Kaminsky Continues To Dominate
As the season winds down, there is little debate to say that the National Player of the Year Award will be given to anyone besides Duke freshman Jahlil Okafor or Wisconsin senior Frank Kaminsky. Though Wisconsin would still be a competitor without its big man, Bo Ryan's team does tend to revolve around Kaminsky. In its loss to Maryland, Kaminsky failed to execute from behind the arc. But Sunday's matchup with Michigan State showed that that statistic would indeed change. Kaminsky showed his ability to dominate both inside and outside as he hit his first three attempts from three-point range. The senior totaled 31 points in his 37 minutes of play, completely taking over the Michigan State defense.
Before Sunday, Branden Dawson, Travis Trice and Denzel Valentine averaged a combined 44 points per game for Michigan State. In Madison, the trio only contributed 30 points, many of which came later in the second half. Four other Spartans went scoreless, while Alvin Ellis III scored 2. Because these three have been such heavy contributors, without the support of its leading scorers, the Spartans struggle to make up for it in other ways. This is not the first time this has happened to Tom Izzo's team. The Spartans faced a similar situation in its loss to Illinois at home earlier in the season. Should this trend continue, it will lead to trouble for Michigan State.
Wisconsin's Offensive Efficiency
Wisconsin ranks third in offensive efficiency, and part of the reason is its patience but quick ball movement. The Badgers have shown a consistent ability to find open players, moving the ball inside then outside and back inside without any hesitation. Whereas many teams will stick with what they can get, Wisconsin does not settle for shots and keeps the ball moving.
Wisconsin proved its dominance to an even greater degree Sunday. It showed why the Badgers deserve to hold the Big Ten regular season title. And Frank Kaminsky made an even stronger case for his National Player of the Year candidacy.
Michigan State still showed the good team that is the Spartans. But it lacked ability to pick up where its dominant players started to drop the ball. MSU should still look to join the Big Dance, should its final two games go the Spartans way. But that does mean cooling off Purdue at home who has won seven of its last eight games.