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Big Ten Tournament Preview: Spartans and Badgers Face Off In Today’s First Semifinal

Michigan State and Wisconsin will play with a trip to the title game on the line.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan State at Wisconsin Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

There are two games today in the Big Ten Tournament, with the winners set to play for a title tomorrow. Let’s take a look at the first semifinal tipping off today.

#6 Michigan State Spartans vs. #19 Wisconsin Badgers

  • Time/TV: 1:00 PM ET - CBS

With Michigan State and Wisconsin both winning on Friday afternoon, the two teams will face off today in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals.

The two teams only played once this season, with Michigan State winning in Madison back in February. In what was a close game throughout, the Badgers only made one field goal over the last six minutes on their way to a 67-59 defeat. Ethan Happ had a big day for the Badgers, but Wisconsin struggled from the field and only hit 41.7% of their free throws.

Wisconsin is coming off of an interesting game against Nebraska, with Ethan Happ playing only 20 minutes and a thin Cornhuskers team sticking around to the very end. Of course this isn’t the first time Nebraska has gave Happ fits, but the Badgers will need their star forward to play a larger role today against the Spartans. They’ll also likely need Brad Davison to have a better performance, with the guard coming off of a 2 for 10 shooting performance.

Wisconsin has had their fair share of issues at times this year, but when they play to their potential they’re as dangerous as anyone in the conference. If Happ and Davison can bounce back today than that’ll be a huge boost, especially if the team can shoot 91.7% from the line again. They’ll also need to control the ball better since the odds of beating Michigan State if they commit 17 turnovers again are slim.

Michigan State has looked good as of late, going 8-1 their last nine games. Those eight wins include two against Michigan, two against Ohio State and one against their opponent today. While the Spartans did a bad job closing the final few minutes out versus Ohio State, they had control throughout most of the second half. The Spartans have arguably the best player in the conference in Cassius Winston and a laundry list of offensive weapons available. Even more notable is the return of Nick Ward, who scored eight points in 14 minutes from the bench.

The Spartans have one of the best scoring teams in conference play, finishing second in points per game, first in field goal percentage, fifth in three point shooting and first in free throw shooting. That offensive firepower could prove problematic for a Wisconsin team that doesn’t always score very much. The Badgers have a slower offense but do a pretty good job shooting from outside. The problem is if they struggle from the line in a close game against Michigan State, especially with their best player (Happ) being a liability in the closing minutes due to his inability to shoot free throws.

While on paper Michigan State should be able to win this game, it’s hard to dismiss Wisconsin that easily. The Badgers are a pesky team that can do enough to win and advance to the finals, but the balanced attack of the Spartans might be too much to handle, especially with Nick Ward back in the mix. It’ll be close, but the Spartans should move on to the title game on Sunday.

  • Pick: Michigan State