As #10 Michigan State 22-7 (11-5) prepares to host #22 Wisconsin 20-9 (11-5) tonight at the Breslin the biggest obstacle won’t be the team wearing red. For sure the Badgers are well coached and formidable, but the Spartans have already proved they can handle that.
MSU beat the Badgers once this year already 49-47 in Madison on January 22. With a chance at a Big Ten title and a team that is on a three game losing streak they have beat the man in the mirror first.
Izzo talked about his matchup by saying, “They still are a Wisconsin team that has the characteristics of the Wisconsin teams. They’re still very good defensively, they run you off the 3-point line, which shouldn’t affect us much, but they do. They don’t shoot it as well from the free throw line and that’s odd for a Wisconsin team. They’ve been sporadic from three and in that game they didn’t make that many at all and they’re taking maybe even more than they’ve taken most years.”
You can hear in Izzo’s answer that the Badgers have their warts, but let’s be honest. These two teams don’t have games they have battles and Izzo acknowledged that. “It’s never not been a tough game. It seems like every game we play against them is a tough game and I’m sure this will be the same. Hopefully we’re gonna find a way to get on the right side of the score and see what happens. We do have an interesting week ahead of us. Being spring break I know we’ll be prepared to play, I just want to make sure that we play the way we’re prepared and I thought we didn’t do that as well against Michigan.”
The X factor at the Breslin is the Izzone, but with MSU students on spring break does that put any extra angst in Izzo’s stomach? Is he concerned? “I am – 9 o’clock game, all the different you find playing Wisconsin, you know it’s a different kind of game. Yeah, I’m concerned about it a little. Our marketing people already have talked a little bit. I’m sure probably some students will be there. Some stayed around. I think they did at Michigan, too – same scenario. But it wasn’t just our students who’ve done a better job – our regular fans have done a better job. I keep getting reminded by my wife that, several games ago, there was a 70-, 80-year-old guy that was on the screen up there making more noise than most. So I kind of look at that like it’s good to have Jud back.”
The Spartans are not only trying to stay in the hunt for another Big Ten title, but they want more. This could be Izzo’s eight Big Ten title and fourth Big Ten tournament title. Those are big time accomplishments. Izzo admits there is more than just one win on the line tonight.
“But we still have a couple other goals we have in mind – getting the Big Ten Tournament championship, getting a higher seed in that, getting a higher seed in the NCAA as we move on. To do that, we have a pretty tough game against Wisconsin that we have to take care of Thursday night. Yes, we’re home, the students won’t be here. But good players know how big the game is.”
Izzo and the Spartans have won four in a row over the Badgers, but number five would look awfully nice on Izzo’s resume.