Wisconsin meets Michigan State for their only meeting of the year on Thursday. The game tips off at 8 pm Central at the Kohl Center and will be broadcast on ESPN2, not the Big Ten Network, so you can actually, y'know, watch it. Speaking of the BTN and MSU, head coach Tom Izzo is a bit nonplussed about the whole arrangement:
"I think it has been a PR nightmare," Izzo said Monday. "And, I think it has hurt all of us."
It has, but we're not ready to write that post again.
Over the past half-decade, the Badgers have positively owned the Spartans, sporting a 9-3 record against the guys in green and white. It's been over seven years since Wisconsin dropped a home game to MSU, despite the Spartans' relative strength during that stretch. Actually, the best summary of the Wisconsin-MSU "rivalry" (such as it is) comes from Joe Rexrode of the Lansing State Journal (link found via the excellent Spartans Weblog). Some of the better bits:
2003: For the second straight season, the teams meet once, this time in Madison. MSU needs it to stay in the Big Ten race. It's a competitive contest but Wisconsin pulls away late. With seconds remaining, sophomore Devin Harris gets a loose ball, pushes it and throws a lob to freshman Alando Tucker, who dunks right before the buzzer. Izzo is incensed as he approaches Ryan for the handshake. I can still see it clearly.
Izzo: "I'll ****ing remember that!"
Ryan (almost shrugging): "OK."
Wisconsin wins its second straight Big Ten championship. Preseason favorite MSU finishes third.
Looks like Izzo's memory hasn't done much to will the Spartans to victory over Wisconsin.
2004: This is where it really gets nasty, and painful for MSU. The Badgers rout the Spartans in Madison in the Big Ten opener, despite a 17-5 start for MSU. That drops the Spartans to 5-7 on the season. But MSU recovers from that low point, going on a tear and setting itself up to win the Big Ten. All it needs to do is beat Wisconsin at home in the regular-season finale. The famed "banner game" (because MSU had its Big Ten title banner rolled up in the rafters, and Wisconsin's coaches spotted it and used it to motivate their team) is also the best game I've ever seen Paul Davis play. He has 26 but sits the final seven minutes with painful cramps. Wisconsin comes back to tie it on a Harris 3-pointer. Chris Hill misses two free throws in the waning seconds. Wisconsin wins in overtime. No championship.
Now THAT is good stuff. Don't expect Bo to have a banner made for this Thursday's game; Indiana is still in the title hunt after downing Ohio State last night.
The Spartans are a talented but error-prone team, and unless both Drew Neitzel and Raymar Morgan get hot and stay hot with regard to their field goal percentage, I don't see a Wisconsin loss. It's impossible to predict how this game will go as the Badgers tend to win a different way every night, but hopefully we'll come out 14-2 and ready to win out during the season's final week.