Thursday, February 28, 2008

Badgers-Spartans TONIGHT

What's at stake: for the Badgers, that top ten ranking and that seat at the top of the conference and a shot at a two- or three-seed for the Big Dance; for Michigan State, a quality win late in the season that could turn the Selection Committee's head, and the chance to play spoiler and take care of one of their particular bugbears of late -- winning against Wisconsin, but at the Kohl Center in particular.

Keys to the game: Wisconsin simply needs to do what it's been doing; whether they're getting half a dozen three-balls from Jason Bohannon, a key block from Brian Butch, or a grinding and consistent effort from Marcus Landry or Michael Flowers, this team has won a different way every night. Hell, even Jon Leuer might decide to score twenty. You never know. Michigan State needs to rebound aggressively on both ends of the court and take care of the ball. Wisconsin is not a mistake-prone team and isn't afraid to slow the pace of the game if they feel they're comfortably ahead or within striking distance of the lead. That doesn't usually lead to complacence, but if MSU works the backboards and takes second-chance opportunities away, the Badgers' game plan can quickly go south, especially if no shooter has the hot hand tonight.

What does a win mean? More of the same. Continued momentum into the conference tournament and the Big Dance. A shot at yet another regular season conference title. The chance to jump to a two-seed if a team like Xavier, Tennessee, or Texas were to slip up a couple times in the next few weeks.

What does a loss mean? An almost definite three- or four-seed in the Dance. A Big Ten title only comes with major shortfalls by IU and Purdue. The first signs of tarnish on Bo Ryan's record against Tom Izzo in Madison.

Prediction? Badgers 65, Spartans 55. Closer game than the final score indicates.